Classes in celestial navigation and related topics
Celestial Navigation Classes: Spring 2014The Planetarium at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut and ReedNavigation.com are offering several weekend classes in celestial navigation this Spring. Two classes are appropriate for beginners covering real traditional navigational techniques that will enable you to fix your position in latitude and longitude using the Sun and other celestial bodies, a sextant, and simple mathematical techniques. And if you enjoy historical methods, we're also offering a class in "lunars", once considered the ultimate art form in celestial navigation.
Easy Introductory Celestial Navigation by Noon Sun
March 29 - 30, 2014, 10:00am - 4:00pm each day:
An easy, introductory class in the basic principles of celestial navigation from a modern perspective designed especially for yachstmen and recreational boaters, but also appropriate for anyone interested in a quick overview of celestial navigation. Celestial navigation is the ultimate backup when the electronics fail, and it is a tradition that connects us with maritime history. Students will learn how to adjust and use sextants available on the market today. This class covers the classic, time-honored method of finding latitude by Noon Sun as well as finding longitude by observations of the Sun before and after noon (including frequently neglected corrections for statistics and the motion of the observer). Weather permitting, students will be able to try it for real and measure the Sun's altitude around noon (from a nearby shore location) to determine our latitude and longitude.
Celestial Navigation: 19th Century Methods
April 26 - 27, 2014, 10:00am - 4:00pm each day:
An introductory class in the history and the actual techniques of celestial navigation as it was practiced aboard American vessels in the Age of Sail, focusing especially on celestial navigation aboard the whaleship Charles W. Morgan. Students will learn how it was done and how to apply these same methods today. Students will learn how to use and adjust sextants and octants, both historical instruments and their modern equivalents. The class covers the classic method of finding latitude by "Noon Sun". We'll also learn in detail the math of the "Time Sight" which was used to determine longitude from the 19th through the middle of the 20th century. Throughout, we will compare what we're doing with actual logbook entries and calculations in the collections of Mystic Seaport. Weather permitting, students will have opportunities to make actual sextant observations.
Lunars: Finding Longitude by Observing the Moon
May 24 - 25, 2014, 10:00am - 4:00pm each day:
An intermediate level class in the famous method of finding longitude by lunar distances, usually known for short as "lunars". Lunars were widely used at sea in the early 19th century in the era before chronometers became common. By observing the position of the Moon relative to the Sun or stars, navigators used the Moon as a great natural clock in the sky. From James Cook and Nathaniel Bowditch to Joshua Slocum, lunars were a challenge that proved a navigator's skill. Students in this class will learn the details of adjusting a sextant properly for shooting lunars, tricks for taking accurate sights, and easy methods for clearing these famously difficult observations.
A frequently asked question:"They both sound good - which class should I take?"
Of the two introductory classes above, if you're interested in history, old logbooks, and perhaps a bit more interested in mathematical details, too, then sign up for the "19th century methods" class. If you're more practically oriented, more pragmatic, not much interested in historical details, and mostly looking for a good (last resort) backup for your GPS, then sign up for the "introductory noon sun" class. Both will give you real, usable navigational skills and methods. Note that neither of these classes will cover the standardized late 20th century approaches to navigation such as using tables like "H.O. 249". We're offering an intermediate class using such tables and covering twilight star sights this year for the first time. See above.
11 posted. 8 waiting approval.
Do you offer celestial nav courses for sailors?
The class was also a great resource for my teaching and my own research interests such as the visibility of celestial objects in the daytime (Jupiter and Venus) and the effects of astronomical refraction near the horizon. I hope to take more workshops with Frank.
Dr. Russell D. Sampson
Eastern Connecticut State University
Also, the class was made more enjoyable through discussions with my other classmates during, and after the class had ended! You know a class is worthwhile when the learning continues outside of the classroom.
I highly recommend any of Frank's classes and workshops, since the guy knows what he's talking about, and he can explain it to folks with (or without) all kinds of math and physics backgrounds.
Plus, it's just plain fun to realize that all you have to do to find out where you are in the universe is "look up". Now that's just cool.
Philip M. Sadler, Ed.D.
F.W. Wright Senior Lecturer in Celestial Navigation
Harvard University Astronomy Department
Samuel S. Caldwell MD
Saratoga Springs, NY
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© Copyright 2013, Frank Reed, ReedNavigation.com, Conanicut Island USA.