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    Re: Rude Starfinder History
    From: Stan K
    Date: 2014 Jul 16, 23:20 -0400
    Frank,

    It looks like the Rude Star Finder is going to make it through another revision of the Power Squadrons Navigation course.  In 2004 the Offshore Navigation Committee was considering dropping it from the Junior Navigation (JN) and Navigation (N) courses for cost reasons - it was an additional $35 (as I recall) added to already relatively expensive courses (compared to other Power Squadrons courses).  (It was at this time and for this reason that they asked me to make a Windows version of my old DOS sight planning program, which was the beginning of Celestial Tools.  BTW, an update to Celestial Tools was just released to the Power Squadrons web site and to www.celestialtools.webs.com - mostly additional piloting features.)  With the major overhaul (much to my dismay) of the courses in 2009, the Star Finder was eliminated, along with a lot of what I consider interesting stuff, from JN, but remained in a somewhat abbreviated form in N, with the addition of the Celestial Tools Sight Planner tool.  Students did not have to buy Star Finders, as many old timers donated theirs to their squadrons for use in the courses.  On the exam the students have the choice of whether to do the related problem with the Star Finder or Celestial Tools - guess which is selected. 

    We are currently working on revising the N course for 2015, and the committee is split into two factions.  Some want to eliminate celestial navigation completely.  Others, including me, want to put back some of the more theoretical aspects that were removed in the 2009 edition.  Some surveys were done to determine what students wanted.  In one survey, there was a question that went something like this:

    Select all that apply.  I have taken or plan to take JN and/or N because:
    a) I expect (or expected) to use the material on an offshore cruise.
    b) I want to learn about celestial navigation
    c) I needed them to achieve the grade of Senior Navigator.

    The only answer that absolutely everyone selected was b!  Surprisingly (at least to me), the next most popular answer, not even a close second, was c.  (Senior Navigator is considered a prestigious educational grade, but from my point of view, it and $1.25 will get you a cup of coffee.)  And answer a was a distant third.  When I asked around about the interest in celestial navigation, I got answers like, "I just read an historical novel in which they used celestial navigation, and it seemed interesting.  I'd like to know how it was done before electronics."  So, as I said, it looks like the Star Finder is going to make the cut, and I'm hoping things like the Equation of Time and the meridian diagram get put back.

    Having been an amateur astronomer and once belonging to an astronomy club that did public viewing nights, I have several of David Chandler's "The Night Sky" planispheres, all with the same latitude range of 38º to 50º (exact for 40º).  Of course it shows the constellations (and more than just the navigational stars), and from inside the celestial sphere, but having to print a latitude grid makes it less appealing as a "star finder".  Being able to set it up using date and time is nice, though.  (Wasn't it Byron Franklin who was publicizing his star finder than was set up in that manner, if I recall correctly?)  And, of course, it doesn't have planets, but the ones I have (copyright 1977) include the path of Halley's Comet!

    BTW, even though the Rude Star Finder is "backwards", I found it helpful to draw in the major constellations and guides (like "arc to Arcturus") on the white base disk.

    Stan


    -----Original Message-----
    From: Frank Reed <NoReply_FrankReed@fer3.com>
    To: slk1000 <slk1000---.com>
    Sent: Wed, Jul 16, 2014 6:02 pm
    Subject: [NavList] Re: Rude Starfinder History

    Stan, you wrote:
    "I question whether it was that much help in identifying constellations prior to morning twilight."
    I'll go beyond that and say that the Rude star finder (or H.O. 2102-*) is a miserable beast. It's nothing more than a mediocre planisphere with altitude-azimuth grids attached. There are better ones available for a few bucks including the very nice design created by David Chandler and sold as "The Night Sky" which Bill has already mentioned. And it's easy today to print your own alt-azm grids and add them to one of those cheap planispheres if you really like the scales. Of course, many navigators develop attachments to this rude device, this "ugly duckling", hoping one day it will become Cygnus the Swan (a constellation that a cheap planisphere will display as a recognizable cross shape lying along the Milky Way, but the Rude star finder shows only as a single dot). I suspect that a lot of this has to do with the visceral pleasure of learning the stars for the first time. No matter how you do it, whatever device or system you use to learn the stars and constellations for the first time, it will always occupy a warm spot in the observer's heart. 
    But let's talk about the utility of such a tool for a modern observer. The stars shift in predictable ways from night to night. Suppose you are sailing from New England to Barbados, and you intend to use celestial as much as possible. You will be sailing at an average speed of 8 knots, heading more or less SSE. The night before your voyage in mid-twilight, you step outside, and you see several navigation stars. There's star A 30° high in the east. Star B is 60° high in the south. And stars C and D are 45° high in the NNW and WNW. You make a mental note of those positions. Maybe you even write them down on a notecard. You depart at 0900 and twelve hours later, you're ready to take evening twilight sights. Oh, but it's cloudy, so you miss a day. The next night is clear. So where are those stars from two nights earlier? You tell me. Without a star finder, but knowing that you have travelled SSE at 8 knots for 36 hours, where you will find those stars A, B, C, D. This is the sort of basic positional astronomy that a celestial navigator really should know. And it's not complicated. You know what happens when you move 4.8° towards or away from a star. But even if you guessed that the stars are in the same positions that they two nights earlier on shore, would you have any difficulties identifying them on that second evening of your trip? That's the reality with ocean-sailing: you know the stars from the previous night's or morning's observations. The one really big exception to this reality --and one that mattered a great deal in the period when the star finder was in practical use-- is when a navigator is dumped aboard a vessel with no preparation possibly thousands of miles from home, maybe under southern hemisphere stars when he has only previously seen northern hemisphere stars.
    If you like historical re-creationism, and if your favorite era is the middle 20th century, then the star finder is a tool appropriate to your re-creationist endeavors. Go for it! But if you're a modern navigator, there's little excuse for using it, except, of course, that natural affection I mentioned above. There are vastly better software apps for every class of device, and if you're afraid of running out of power, there are common analog planispheres widely available. Better yet, learn the stars before you sail. You'll have more fun. And don't recommend this goddamn Rude beast to a novice navigator or a beginning navigation enthusiast --unless you're a sadist.
    -FER
     
       
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