Classes in celestial navigation and related topics
Celestial Navigation Classes: Fall 2017
All classes and workshops are held at the Treworgy Planetarium at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. Also this fall, the Treworgy Planetarium and the NavList community are hosting a Celestial Navigation Symposium at Mystic Seaport November 3-5, which I am organizing. We'll have many fascinating presentations on various aspects of the history and future of celestial navigation. Details: fer3.com/mystic2017/.
Celestial Navigation: 19th Century Methods
Offered once this Fall: October 28-29.Real celestial navigation from the historical perspective of the Age of Sail. Hands-on sextant observations with historical instruments and historical pencil and paper calculations, just as it was done aboard American sailing vessels in the late 19th century. more...
Modern Celestial Navigation
Offered twice this Fall: October 14-15, November 11-12.
Practical celestial navigation for the 21st century. How to use modern sextants to determine exact latitude and longitude using the Sun and stars anywhere on Earth, analyzing sights with modern tools like calculators and software apps. more...
Sundials and the Science of Time
TBD.The science of time and the art of ocean navigation developed together. Learn all about time from the most basic principles to "time sights" aboard the Charles W. Morgan to atomic time in the Space Age, all while building a basic sundial. more...
Easy Introductory Celestial Navigation
Learn how to shoot the Sun at Noon and how to use the Sun and stars as a compass in traditional wayfinding. Ideal for beginners interested in marine celestial navigation as well as long-distance hikers and other wayfinders. more...
Lunars: Finding Longitude by Lunar Distances
TBD.Learn to shoot and clear "lunars", long considered the ultimate test of a celestial navigator. Challenging and intricate, lunars are also a window on the fascinating early history of navigation. more...
Traditional Celestial Navigation using HO249
TBD.A workshop covering the time-honored "Intercept Method" using standard, traditional sight reduction tables. Pure paper and pencil celestial navigation as practiced at the end of the 20th century. more...
Advanced Modern Celestial Navigation
TBD.A workshop in advanced and exotic methods of celestial navigation from spherical trigonometry fundamentals to artificial satellite navigation. more...
A frequently asked question:"They all sound good - which class should I take?"
Of the various introductory classes above, if you're completely new to the subject or if you're looking for something with minimal math (there's always some math in celestial navigation), then try our Easy Introductory workshop. 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 last-resort backup or a cross-check of your GPS, then sign up for the Modern Celestial class. Finally, if you're looking for pure paper and pencil methods closest to the standard techniques taught a generation ago, then try our Traditional Celestial class. All of these will give you real, usable navigational skills and methods, though naturally the Easy Introductory class provides more basic capabilities. While each of these classes stands on its own, they also make a nice series curriculum, providing an overview of celestial navigation in different styles and eras.
Several things stand out. The course material is presented in a balanced way, with a well thought mixture of detailed calculation, broken up by historical, factual, and hands-on aspects. This type of teaching is well suited to most, as it provides periods of more intense reasoning with relaxation and humor. Anyone can walk away with new-found knowledge. I also feel that the approach of understanding historical context and a simple practical approach is unique. It has gone a great way toward clearing up a lot of my preconceived ideas and confusions resulting from the many contradictory or esoteric approaches found in various volumes or on the internet.
Very simply, I learned a lot and it went a long way toward clearing up a mess. I was fascinated the whole time. The courses and NavList provide the tools to keep learning even after the course is over. I left able to measure what I see with a more calibrated eye for real world application, and a greater appreciation of human history. I can strongly recommend these classes for the curious, the fascinated, the historian, the hardcore navigator, or the armchair one. There is something in them for all.
I also found the NavList community to be helpful and encouraging as my journey continues. I hope I can undertake even more material in additional courses in the future.
"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats" (Kenneth Grahame, from the "Wind in the Willows")
Philip M. Sadler, Ed.D.
F.W. Wright Senior Lecturer in Celestial Navigation
Harvard University Astronomy Department
Samuel S. Caldwell MD
Saratoga Springs, NY
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 would appreciate talking to your people if you have done this, to discuss things like determining "dip" in a theater where the sextant user is actually BELOW the projected horizon rather than above a true horizon outside.
Another issue is that the altitude of a celestial object projected on the theater's dome would vary from one seat to another inside the theater. I would love to discuss how you have managed this.
You both bring up a fantastic idea that has been approached and (to some extent) solved before. Specifically for the U.S. lunar space program at the Morehead planetarium in NC.
Frank: you excellently bring up dome parallax, but isn't there going to be at least one point, or small area (near center of dome sphere, focal point of the dome) where the parallax wouldn't be nearly as significant? I'd assume this may require a platform / scissor lift etc and might not always be practical, dependent on the type of star projection system in the planetarium selected. I'd also guess the use of a bubble horizon would be necessary too.
Like Bob, I am also very interested in this subject with a local planetarium interested in the subject, and it doesn't seem to have a well published solution ;)
Your collective thoughts? Are there any good resources available on the subject?
I plan on signing up for the Modern Celestial Navigation Course offered in March and possibly the intermediate course as well. Is it recommended to purchase a sextant prior to the course, if so where would one purchase this instrument?
You don't need to purchase a sextant in advance, but if you have one, yes, bring it along. If you would like to acquire a relatively inexpensive, functional sextant, I would suggest looking for a lightly-used Davis plastic sextant. These turn up fairly often on eBay for $100 or less. They're real sextants. You can cross an ocean with one. They're somewhat less accurate than a proper metal instrument, but it's not a major concern. And you can always upgrade later.
Thanks in advance.
Michael diLorenzo, upstate NY
Upcoming Events in 2017
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© Copyright 2016, Frank Reed, Clockwork Mapping, Conanicut Island USA.