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celestial navigation

n. (context nautical English) Navigation by using the positions of the stars and other heavenly body.

celestial navigation

n. navigating according to the positions of the stars [syn: astronavigation]

Celestial navigation

Celestial navigation, also known as astronavigation, is the ancient art and science of position fixing that enables a navigator to transition through a space without having to rely on estimated calculations, or dead reckoning, to know their position. Celestial navigation uses "sights," or angular measurements taken between a celestial body (the sun, the moon, a planet or a star) and the visible horizon. The sun is most commonly used, but navigators can also use the moon, a planet or one of 57 navigational stars whose coordinates are tabulated in the Nautical Almanac and Air Almanacs.

Celestial navigation is the use of angular measurements (sights) between celestial bodies and the visible horizon to locate one's position on the globe, on land as well as at sea. At a given time, any celestial body is located directly over one point on the Earth's surface. The latitude and longitude of that point is known as the celestial body’s geographic position (GP), the location of which can be determined from tables in the Nautical or Air Almanac for that year.

The measured angle between the celestial body and the visible horizon is directly related to the distance between the celestial body's GP and the observer's position. After some computations, referred to as sight reduction, this measurement is used to plot a line of position (LOP) on a navigational chart or plotting work sheet, the observer's position being somewhere on that line. (The LOP is actually a short segment of a very large circle on the earth which surrounds the GP of the observed celestial body. An observer located anywhere on the circumference of this circle on the earth, measuring the angle of the same celestial body above the horizon at that instant of time, would observe that body to be at the same angle above the horizon.) Sights on two celestial bodies give two such lines on the chart, intersecting at the observer's position (actually, the two circles would result in two points of intersection arising from sights on two stars described above, but one can be discarded since it will be far from the estimated position—see the figure at "example" below). Most navigators will use sights of three to five stars, if they're available, since that will result in only one common intersection and minimize the chance for error. That premise is the basis for the most commonly used method of celestial navigation, and is referred to as the "Altitude-Intercept Method."

There are several other methods of celestial navigation which will also provide position finding using sextant observations, such as the "Noon Sight", and the more archaic Lunar Distance method. Joshua Slocum used the Lunar Distance method during the first ever recorded single-handed circumnavigation of the world. Unlike the Altitude-Intercept Method, the noon sight and lunar distance methods do not require accurate knowledge of time. The altitude-intercept method of celestial navigation requires that the observer know exact Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) at the moment of his observation of the celestial body, to the second—since every four seconds that the time source (commonly a chronometer or in aircraft, an accurate "hack watch") is in error, the position will be off by approximately one nautical mile.

Celestial Navigation (novel)

Celestial Navigation is a 1974 novel by Anne Tyler. This was her 5th novel.

Usage examples of "celestial navigation".

Stars, Dev, he shouted at himself, think of stars now, celestial navigation, precomps, star tables, air almanacs .

Even across the distance of the Gulf, it is possible to identify certain of the supergiant marker stars employed in celestial navigation within the Orion Arm.

And the idea of driving back at night using celestial navigation—.

It looks like, somewhere, you've been picking up the rudiments of celestial navigation, Barry.

He would be too busy for the precise celestial navigation he could have practiced afoot.

No longer did AU astronomical unit), parsec and orbital velocity and such terms of celestial navigation seem like unfathomable mysteries.

It was an exceptionally clear night with many visible stars, ideal conditions for celestial navigation.

There are men like you, who are devoted to celestial navigation and who favour others of their kind.

She's trained, according to the records, in celestial navigation and orbital mechanics.

Jim and I did a little celestial navigation and then on to Saturn.

Cargraves, Art, and Ross did the exploring, leaving Morrie back to recuperate and to work on his celestial navigation problem.

But Jack Aubrey's mind, though logical in mathematics and celestial navigation (he had read several papers to the Royal Society, with great applause on the part of those Fellows who understood them: gloomy fortitude on the part of the rest) was less so where laws were concerned: some, and almost all of those to do with the service, he obeyed without question.

It was required knowledge for a kid growing up in a wealthy family near San Diego, but celestial navigation was a complete mystery.