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CHAPTER 16

INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION

THE MARINE SEXTANT

1600. Description and Use In Figure 1601, AB is a ray of light from a celestial body.
The index mirror of the sextant is at B, the horizon glass at C,
The marine sextant measures the angle between two and the eye of the observer at D. Construction lines EF and
points by bringing the direct image from one point and a CF are perpendicular to the index mirror and horizon glass,
double-reflected image from the other into coincidence. Its respectively. Lines BG and CG are parallel to these mirrors.
principal use is to measure the altitudes of celestial bodies Therefore, angles BFC and BGC are equal because their
above the visible sea horizon. It may also be used to measure sides are mutually perpendicular. Angle BGC is the
vertical angles to find the range from an object of known inclination of the two reflecting surfaces. The ray of light AB
height. Sometimes it is turned on its side and used for is reflected at mirror B, proceeds to mirror C, where it is
measuring the angular distance between two terrestrial again reflected, and then continues on to the eye of the
objects. observer at D. Since the angle of reflection is equal to the
angle of incidence,
A marine sextant can measure angles up to approxi-
ABE = EBC, and ABC = 2EBC.
mately 120°. Originally, the term “sextant” was applied to BCF = FCD, and BCD = 2BCF.
the navigator’s double-reflecting, altitude-measuring
instrument only if its arc was 60° in length, or 1/6 of a Since an exterior angle of a triangle equals the sum of
circle, permitting measurement of angles from 0° to 120°. the two non adjacent interior angles,
In modern usage the term is applied to all modern naviga- ABC = BDC+BCD, and EBC = BFC+BCF.
tional altitude-measuring instruments regardless of angular Transposing,
range or principles of operation. BDC = ABC-BCD, and BFC = EBC-BCF.

1601. Optical Principles of a Sextant Substituting 2EBC for ABC, and 2BCF for BCD in the
first of these equations,
When a plane surface reflects a light ray, the angle of re- BDC = 2EBC-2BCF, or BDC=2 (EBC-BCF).
flection equals the angle of incidence. The angle between the
first and final directions of a ray of light that has undergone Since BFC=EBC - BCF, and BFC = BGC, therefore
double reflection in the same plane is twice the angle the two
reflecting surfaces make with each other (Figure 1601). BDC = 2BFC = 2BGC.

That is, BDC, the angle between the first and last
directions of the ray of light, is equal to 2BGC, twice the
angle of inclination of the reflecting surfaces. Angle BDC
is the altitude of the celestial body.
If the two mirrors are parallel, the incident ray from any
observed body must be parallel to the observer’s line of sight
through the horizon glass. In that case, the body’s altitude
would be zero. The angle that these two reflecting surfaces
make with each other is one-half the observed angle. The
graduations on the arc reflect this half angle relationship
between the angle observed and the mirrors’ angle.

1602. Micrometer Drum Sextant

Figure 1602 shows a modern marine sextant, called a
micrometer drum sextant. In most marine sextants, brass
Figure 1601. Optical principle of the marine sextant. or aluminum comprise the frame, A. Frames come in

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” The release.2'. shade glasses readings to 1/10 of a minute of arc (0. U. . mounted on the index arm. Navy Mark 2 micrometer drum sextant. the end of the index arm. The rough adjustment. Most modern sextants are provided with only sometimes called an “endless tangent screw. permitting readings to which serves to direct the line of sight of the observer when 0. perpendicular to the plane of the Some have a small light on the index arm to assist in instrument. Some sextants have are generally not needed. K. if provided. to be placed over the “eyepiece” (near end of The vernier shown is graduated into ten parts. is a movable bar of the same material sextant’s frame in front of the index mirror and horizon as the frame. perpendicular to the plane of the outer edge of the limb. provided. or platinum inlaid in the limb. Figure 1602.” either as shown or with a wider engaged with the limb’s teeth. Teeth mark the It is mounted on the frame. mark that their surfaces are parallel when the micrometer drum is the arc. may be fitted.” or clear tube verniers graduated into only five parts. The batteries for this light are fitted inside over the pivot of the index arm. The tangent screw. L. may be the “inverting type. One The inverting telescope. absorbs less light.262 INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION various designs. most are similar to this. M. B. graduated in minutes of altitude. is mounted perpendicularly on reduce the intensity of light reaching the eye. with the center of the reflecting surface directly reading altitudes. no telescope is used. E. D. are the tangent screw. screws into an adjustable collar in limb. one telescope. With this in place.” micrometer drum. J. When only one telescope is provided. A small colored glass cap is sometimes index arm is a vernier. silver. that reads in fractions of a minute. The index mirror and horizon glass are mounted so altitude. Shade brass. The altitude graduations. I. which generally is the tangent screw and move the index arm along the limb for shorter in length and gives a greater field of view. They can be moved into the line of sight as needed to limb. The horizon glass. each tooth marks one degree of sextant. F.S. but at the expense of producing an along the arc. if the instrument is in perfect adjustment. G.1'). glasses. is a a recess in the handle. Not clearly shown in Figure 1602 piece of optical glass silvered on its half nearer the frame. is a piece of silvered plate glass Sextants are designed to be held in the right hand. The end of the tangent screw mounts a second telescope. H. permitting telescope) to reduce glare. it is of is a spring-actuated clamp that keeps the tangent screw the “erect image type. Some sextants have an arc marked in a strip of set at 0°. A “peep sight. The index mirror. where it engages the teeth of the The telescope. C. and the three legs. this is instrument. along the limb. It pivots about the center of curvature of the glass. having one lens less than the erect complete turn of the drum moves the index arm one degree type. Because the observer can move the index arm through line with the horizon glass and parallel to the plane of the the length of the arc by rotating the tangent screw. Next to the micrometer drum and fixed on the inverted image. of varying darkness are mounted on the The index arm. E. The observer can disengage “object glass” (far end of telescope).

Movement of the index arm by the tangent screw is limited to the length of the While the relatively large Sun and Moon are easy to screw (several degrees of arc). The sextant is vertical when the Sun appears at the bottom of the arc. this procedure is 1604. Sextant Moon Sights drum type. Slowly move the index suitable shade glasses into the line of sight. releasing the arm. the navigator notes the time. A small microscope or magnifying glass fitted to the index arm is used in making Method 1. Navy appears to be resting exactly on the horizon. Fixed to the the Moon because the Moon illuminates the water below it. the clamp screw is loosened. it may not be recovered without starting over again. and the other half appears on the clear part. Stars and planets have no center of the horizon glass. the clamp screw is tightened. Keep the reflected clamp screw vernier sextant. clamp screw and engaged with the index arm is a long tangent screw. To move the index shoot. Two perpendicular adjustment by letting the body contact the horizon by its own motion. the image of the Sun appears 2102D. the index arm 1606. be careful in selecting the limb to fitted on the underside of the index arm. required. The release is the same as on the image of the body in the mirror until the horizon appears in micrometer drum sextant. The novice observer needs practice to it can be moved against retaining or mounting springs within determine the exact point of tangency. Then. tangent to the Mark 3 and certain other sextants. One of three point of its range. When this screw is turned. observation. Most recent marine sextants are of the micrometer 1605. As you rock the sextant. you must observe the part. follow the same procedure principally in the manner in which the final reading is as for the Sun. When the terminator (the line between light and dark two. In place of the modern release clamp. but at least two older-type sextants are still in use. as with the and rotate the frame of the sextant down. swing the index arm out the fine reading is made by a vernier along the arc. The image of the body should the image from moving off the horizon glass. the horizon glass near the direct view of the horizon. Set the index arm and micrometer drum on the final reading. The endless tangent screw vernier sextant is identical to Then. dicular.S. Determine in advance the approximate sextant slightly to the right and left to ensure it is perpen.S. and mirrored half of the horizon glass. One screw must be loosened before the bringing it slightly below the horizon if rising. Only one perpendicular adjustment screw is by bringing the image down too far. and you may have to turn slightly to prevent the direction of the azimuth. altitude and azimuth of the body by a star finder such as No. locate because the field of view is so narrow. the mirror is mounted so that lower limb. the upper made. Sextant Sun Sights difficult. On the U. Sextant Star and Planet Sights moves slowly. INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION 263 There are two basic designs commonly used for mounting index arm with the drum or vernier slowly until the Sun and adjusting mirrors on marine sextants. limb of the Moon is observed more often than that of the The clamp screw vernier sextant is the older of the Sun. bring observation. setting. For a Sun sight. Because of the phases of the Moon. On the U. After moving holding the sextant upside down. Beginners often err its frame. and above if other screw bearing on the same surface is tightened. The Sun’s reflected image appears at the its center down to the horizon. When there is little contrast between brightness of the sky and the body. stars and planets can be more difficult to measured. The final reading is made on a vernier set methods may help locate a star or planet: in the index arm below the arc. At the instant the horizon is tangent to the disk. This is the correct position for making the When measuring the altitude of a star or planet. These differ from the micrometer drum sextant When observing the Moon. this screw should be set to the approximate mid. Rock the Method 3. hold the sextant vertically and direct the Method 2. If the body is “lost” while it is being brought down. Because stars and planets have . make the of the limb which engage with the endless tangent screw. Move the center of the point of light. except that it has no drum. 0° and direct the line of sight at the body to be observed. Before an altitude is find in the sextant. a clamp screw is areas) is nearly vertical. move the index arm out until the horizon appears in the horizon glass. Sights of the Moon are best made during either arm. Then arm outward along the arc until the reflected image appears in invert the sextant and take the sight in the usual manner. while keeping the reflected image of the body in the the micrometer drum sextant. appear in the horizon glass with a little searching. They are called vernier sextants. At night. The sextant altitude is the 1603. screws are required. permitting accurate setting. Navy Mark 2 and other sextants the Some navigators get their most accurate observations mirror is fixed within its frame. When daylight hours or that part of twilight in which the Moon is the arm is placed at the approximate altitude of the body least luminous. one half appears on the silvered discernible upper or lower limb. and teeth are cut into the underside the clear part of the horizon glass. false horizons may appear below being observed. Direct the line of sight at the body while sight line at the horizon directly below the Sun. Vernier Sextant uncorrected reading of the sextant. Set the sextant at the indicated altitude and face in to move in an arc.

Near the darker limit of is equivalent to 1/40 of one graduation of 20' on the arc. predict expected graduations on the micrometer drum. Thus. If an assistant is not available to time the observations. leaving his 1609.” one would know that the time sights of the brightest stars first in the evening. In the illustration. Each degree on the arc of this sextant is highest point indicates the position of perpendicularity. the measurement is almost ready. if the hour hand bodies with a predicted altitude between 30° and 70°. If the Sun or Moon is observed and 30°. or 29°42. and second hands of preparing to take celestial sights. The reading The collar into which the sextant telescope fits may be for the fraction of 20' is made using the vernier. Try to select to the others should be kept in mind.5'. But if the minute hand were on of the brightest stars last in the morning. and in this manner. the relationship of one part of the reading planets that give the best bearing spread. engraved on the index arm and has the small reference mark as more of the mirrored half of the horizon glass is visible to its zero graduation. fog. haze. the altitude setting. noting the time should not be more than one or two seconds. permitting an initial reading by the If more than one telescope is furnished with the reference mark on the index arm to the nearest 20' of arc. Similarly. have an assistant note and mark on each side of the one that seems to be in coincidence. A this illustration the reference mark lies between 29°40' and wider field of view is present if the telescope is not used. arrow on the index arm in relation to the arc. giving a broader or 30". Take of a watch were about on “4.)1°. interfere with the navigator’s night vision. Taking a Sight with relation to the graduations on the micrometer drum. the observer holds the watch in the palm of his left hand. Similarly. If the arc of the sextant is 39° 58'. if the arc indicated a reading of Occasionally. The degrees are read by noting the position of the perpendicularity. the telescope can be moved out. “rock the sextant” to establish steps.5' graduation on the vernier coincides with one of the lower limb is in fact the upper limb. Developing Observational Skill fingers free to manipulate the tangent screw of the sextant. The minutes are read by noting the position of the zero on the vernier 1607. In the graduations on the micrometer drum. The arc that appears when the reading is made in two steps. 40 graduations coincide the navigator. take sights was about four o’clock. This is similar to altitudes and azimuths for up to eight bodies when reading the time with the hour. A well-constructed marine sextant is capable of The delay between completing the altitude observation and measuring angles with an instrument error not exceeding 0. As with the Reading a micrometer drum sextant is done in three Sun and Moon. If a flashlight is needed to see the various figures are added algebraically.)1° + 56' + 0. not 0458 (or 1658). but appears to be the upper limb. Figure 1608b shows a typical rocking the sextant for a back sight is inverted.)3. When a vernier of this type is used. the reading is 29°42'30". 56' and 0.5'. Lines of position from altitudes of this accuracy would not be . Choose the stars and a watch. what appears in the horizon glass to be the the 0. twilight. reducing inaccuracy due to eye fatigue. case of the Sun. Therefore. that is.7'. If both eyes are on the arc. and making the less 1/2' (2'30") most nearly coincides with one of the graduations distinct horizon more easily discernible. After making the observation. it is usually preferable to observe what The principle of reading a vernier sextant is the same. using the minute can be removed by noting the fraction of a minute opposite point of the horizon as the reference. the moment a sight is made. and 58' on the micrometer drum were opposite may obscure the horizon directly below a body which the zero on the vernier. a back sight might be obtained. however.5'. which is adjusted in or out.3'.1'. if the three comparing watch. “58. the total reading is ( . Each graduation on the vernier when the sky is relatively bright. the zero on the vernier is between 42' and 43'. The fraction of a minute is read by noting which mark on Unless you have a navigation calculator or computer the vernier most nearly coincides with one of the that will identify bodies automatically.” one would know that the time was 0358 (or 1558). with a “stand-by” warning when Negative readings. On this vernier. any doubt as to the correct sufficiently long. record the time if possible. Thus. In sextant. eye before. the method of letting a star or planet intersect the horizon by its own motion is not recommended. The arrow on the index mark is between 29° supplement of the altitude. For this the from the position of the vernier. or 0. in relation to the frame. In Figure 1608a the reading observer faces away from the body and observes the is 29° 42. the assistant should be careful not to parts of a micrometer drum reading are ( . such as a negative index correction. Reading the Sextant limited. any doubt as to strain will be lessened. In both. the vernier graduation representing 2 view of the clear half of the glass. and vice versa. Practice will permit observations to which mark on the vernier coincides with a graduation on the be made quickly. When moved in. he notes the time as quickly as possible. and a “mark” at the are made in the same manner as positive readings. one would know that the reading was navigator wishes to observe. and a star or planet is more easily observed with 39 graduations on the arc. or other ships in a formation about 40°. as kept open until the last moments of an observation. indicating a reading between these values. arc can usually be resolved by noting the position of the vernier When measuring an altitude. minute. graduated into three parts.3' = ( .264 INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION no discernible limb and because their visibility may be 1608. 30°00'. not 40°58'. the erecting telescope is used to observe the Sun.

INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION 265 Figure 1608a. Micrometer drum sextant set at 29° 42.5'. . Vernier sextant set at 29°42'30". Figure 1608b.

intervals of altitude or time. It is best to use a point near the pressure when polishing the coated optics. The index correction may have been determined Silica gel kept in the sextant case will help keep the incorrectly. Do not hold it by its limb. sextant or an all-purpose light machine oil. Also. the average of practice to develop the skill necessary for consistently time and mid altitude are used. An error may have been made in the computation. Most navigators require a great amount observation. However. Use the oil provided with the be reduced in a given time. Occasionally set A simpler method involves making observations at the index arm of an endless tangent screw at one extremity equal intervals. This procedure is based upon the of the limb. a personal error should be applied incident on their face. Navigators have a natural tendency to judge the accuracy of 1610. Although this is some A sextant is a rugged instrument. Viewing an object through To obtain greater accuracy. accuracy because of the rounding errors inherent in the use Occasionally. the change in altitude should be equal for equal measured by sextant. and other because glass surfaces reflect a small portion of light factors. Unless the body is near which obscures the object being viewed. it is an imperfect one. greatest enemy. When not using the sextant. Lift or piloting. Common sources of error are: it only by its frame or handle. The sextant may not be rocked properly. Using a navigational calculator or off the lens before wiping them so grit does not scratch the computer program to reduce sights will yield greater lens. there are assumption that. The height of eye may be wrong. but each might be used. Wipe the sextant gently with a soft cotton cloth and dry technique errors. The sextant might be out of adjustment. take a number of closely. other than instrumental. anti-reflection coating. careless indication. Use this graph to determine the altitude of the body at any fragile. Do not lift it by its arc or index bar. this curve should be a straight line. Subnormal refraction (dip) might be present.266 INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION in error by more than about 200 yards. apply only light time covered by the graph. excessive heat and dampness. A false horizon may have been used. then adjust throughout the navigator’s career. and then rotate the tangent screw . but it is generally better practice to use the develops his own technique. Occasionally heat the silica gel to remove the absorbed 9. 1. This error might vary as a function of the body Glass optics do not transmit all the light received observed. some of which are not subject to the navigator’s and sufficiently padded case. moisture is the sextant’s 2. Care of the Sextant their observations by the size of the figure formed when the lines of position are plotted. and because many more sights can teeth on the side of the limb. If only a small number of observations is available. moisture. several glass optics affects the perceived brightness and spaced observations. the glass optics are treated with a thin. 7. Blow loose dust middle of the line. Keep the sextant away from control. The average position of the line be obtained from experienced navigators. When cleaning. 3. Clean the arc with ammonia. but occasionally a personal error will the optics with lens paper. effect to a minimum. persist. never use a polishing compound. The first fix a student celestial navigator plots is likely the mid time and the average altitude are used as the to be disappointing. If time intervals are constant. To reduce this the celestial meridian. because it does not handling or neglect can cause it irreparable harm. thus averaging out errors. good observations. and a practice that proves middle line. Therefore. or telescope. This loss of light reduces the with caution. stow it in a sturdy of errors. Next to careless handling. Do not expose it to excessive Lines of position from celestial observations should be vibration. Wipe the mirrors and the arc after each use. unless the body is on the celestial various sources of error. take it to an instrument repair shop for testing and reflect constant errors. Also. For this reason. If you indicate errors of individual observations. Tangency may not be judged accurately. apply excessive pressure to any part of the instrument. small amount of alcohol. oil it lightly. do not 6. Rinse the sextant with fresh water if sea water gets on Generally. If the mirrors get dirty. index arm. If altitude increments are constant. Reject any observation considered unreliable successful for one observer may not help another. The reflection also causes glare and fair a curve through the points. and may not drop it. But practice alone is not sufficient. clean them with lens paper and a 4. 5. instrument free from moisture and preserve the mirrors. experienced navigator is not necessarily a good observer. brightness of the object viewed. Observations can be made at equal observer. However. it is possible to correct observation it. oil and clean the tangent screw and the of sight reduction tables. Plot the resulting altitudes versus time makes the image indistinct. 8. Good technique should be developed early and refined reduce and plot the resulting lines of position. Many good pointers can them to a common time. an when determining the average. degree of fatigue of the observer. One of the principal sources is the intervals of time. Do not leave it unattended when it is out of its compared often with good positions obtained by electronics case. in altitudes meridian. it is a compound of a number inspection. Time might be in error.

of the mast of another vessel (or the sextant can be held on its and vernier of a sextant which is improperly cut or side and the horizon used). The navigator should apply the the telescope in its collar and then laying the sextant on a correction for this error to each sextant reading. The first and last markings on any vernier a continuous line across the horizon glass. micrometer drum. If the horizon still appears continuous. and protect its 1. in changing from one position to the other. used for right or left edge of the field of view (the upper or lower determining index error should be used for measuring edge if the sextant is horizontal). no side error observations require additional shading. the index mirror is not perpen- graduation error. To test for re-silvering. Adjustable Sextant Error the frame. Then tilt the sextant should align perfectly with one less graduation on the right or left. the stars appear near the opposite edge. all adjustable errors. INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION 267 over the length of the arc. the horizon adjacent micrometer drum. Observe the direct and reflected views of the sextant arc. The higher the quality dicular. take the sextant to an instrument shop. perpendicularity. the horizon glass is not determine whether the arc of a sextant is improperly cut. the telescope is parallel to the frame. determine their combined error. An equally by any lack of parallelism of its two sides. The same shade glasses. if any. If the mirrors need larity of the index mirror to the frame of the sextant. the reflected glasses. parallelism in the shade glasses may be called shade error. This is a useful guide in detecting a poorly made horizon into coincidence with the direct view until it appears as instrument. side error exists. the mirror is inclined backward. This second line should be in the center of the field . Then rotate the tangent screw back and forth so that the sight. the glass is not at the exact center of the arc’s curvature. If they remain in The manufacturer normally determines the magnitude coincidence. affected reflected images are in coincidence is immaterial for this test. When stowing a sextant for a long period. set the index arm at zero and direct the line of sight at a same angle measured when the glass is not in the line of star. If the direct and reflected portions do incorrectly calibrated. Whether the sextant reads zero when the true and when they reach the cover and are. such as one edge Graduation errors occur in the arc. Bring the reflected image of one into errors. Make the glasses and mirrors are not parallel. If the two views are The non-adjustable sextant errors are prismatic error. The navigator can determine shade error in the shade 2. If certain image passes directly over the unreflected image. not joined in a straight line. An alternative method involves placing user as instrument error. use collimation error will result. a minimize errors. A third method the principle of the vernier makes it possible to determine involves holding the sextant vertically. This will clean the teeth and following adjustable sextant errors in the order listed: spread oil over them. Error due to lack of adjustment using two screws behind the index mirror. Then tilt the sextant so that centering error. alternative method is to observe a vertical line. Sight along the frame of the sextant and have an assistant place a mark on the opposite bulkhead. use the colored exists. if they of all three non-adjustable errors and reports them to the separate. Make the appropriate adjustment using two centering error by measuring known angles after removing screws behind the horizon glass. determine and record the error for reflected image passes alternately above and below the direct each shade glass. glass is perpendicular to the frame. therefore. Perpendicularity Error: Adjust first for perpendicu- arc with a thin coat of petroleum jelly. To test for side measured when a shade glass is in the line of sight with the error. the less these error will be. the navigator cannot not form a continuous line. Figure 1612b telescope eyepiece cover. in line with 1612. at a distance equal to the distance from the center of the telescope to the The navigator should measure and remove the frame. Normally. If the reflected image is above the direct view. To minimize refraction or more apart. mirror is inclined forward. Bring the reflected image of the or vernier. clean it thoroughly. Non Adjustable Sextant Errors toward the eye. the of the instrument. insert it in its collar and observe two stars 90° values determined by the sextant. This does not introduce an error illustrates observations without side error (left) and with side because direct and reflected rays are traveling together error (right). Before using a combination of shade view. Use horizontal angles accurately measured with a theodolite as references for this procedure. flat table. To check for parallelism of reference. Place another mark above the first. 3. but perpendicular to the frame of the sextant. Altitudes measured will be calculated angles between the lines of sight to stars as the greater than their actual values. If the reflected image is below the Prismatic error occurs when the faces of the shade direct view. but if the reflected portion Centering error results if the index arm does not pivot appears above or below the part seen directly. If. as illustrated in Figure 1612a. Side Error: An error resulting from the horizon glass glasses near the index mirror by comparing an angle not being perpendicular is called side error. as in observing the the existence of graduation errors in the micrometer drum altitude of a celestial body. Calculate perpendicular. and centering error. comparing these calculated values with the the telescope. Collimation Error: If the line of sight through the Several readings by both theodolite and sextant should telescope is not parallel to the plane of the instrument. polish and oil it. In this manner. it is not. place the index arm at about 35° on the arc and hold the sextant on its side with the index mirror up and 1611. If it passes to one side. select stars at about the same altitude and avoid stars coincidence with the direct view of the other near either the near the horizon. If a theodolite is not available.

subtract it from each sextant opposite sides into coincidence. stand or sit so that the celestial body being parallel when the index arm is set exactly at zero is the is reflected in the mirror or liquid. Selecting a Sextant angle and apply all other corrections except dip (height of eye) correction. and is also visible in direct major cause of index error. If the index error is negative. purchase one with a longer arc. Such a reference is commonly of view of the telescope if the telescope is parallel to the termed an artificial horizon. a different horizontal reference is required. the horizon is not clearly visible. Here the mirror is not perpendicular. or in the air. The sextant’s the double-reflected image into coincidence with the top of the reading when the horizon comes into line is the index error. For an upper-limb observation. apply the index correction and any other instrumental correction. The index mirror and horizon glass not external artificial horizon. To use an and collimation error. . or part of. Testing the perpendicularity of the index mirror. If image in the liquid. side error does not exist. however. reading. At the right. set the instrument at zero and direct the line of sight at coincidence with the image appearing in the liquid. add it to each sextant the observation is of the center of the body. sextant. omit the correction for semidiameter. on land. normally provided at sea by the visible horizon. since this is not applicable. bring the bottom of both images of the horizon to come into line. carefully levelled mirror or a pan of dark liquid. If back sights or determining horizontal angles are often required. With the sextant. After the observation. side error. For a lower the horizon. The Artificial Horizon Figure 1612b. An experienced mariner or nautical instrument technician can provide valuable advice on the purchase of a sextant. Index Error: Index error is the error remaining after An external artificial horizon can be improvised by a the navigator has removed perpendicularity error. To test for parallelism of the view. bring the double-reflected image into mirrors. an arc of 90° or slightly more is sufficient. For ordinary use in measuring altitudes of celestial bodies. 4. If the center of the Sun Carefully match the selected sextant to its required uses. a plastic sextant may be adequate. If exist. the frame. reading. whenever celestial bodies are available for observations. side error does reference. Adjust the sextant reading as necessary to cause limb observation of the Sun or the Moon. Accurate offshore navigation requires a quality metal instrument. If it is attached to. 268 INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION Figure 1612a. Then take half the remaining 1613. bring the the index error is positive. If one image covers the other. Adjust the collar to correct for non-parallelism. or Moon is observed. 1614. A plastic sextant may also be appropriate for an emergency navigation kit. For occasional small craft or student use. Measurement of altitude requires an exact horizontal On the left. Testing the perpendicularity of the horizon glass. altitudes can be measured at sea.

coordinated to the nearest second with the chronometer will be adequate. With a moderate sea. A chronometer should not be removed from its case to The principal maintenance requirement is regular time sights. artificial-horizon sextant than with a marine sextant. a wrist watch and overhaul. A good marine variations. In this case. INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION 269 1615. envelope. Some contained. Observations may be timed and ship’s clocks winding at about the same time each day. The chronometer is designed to time (C) is carefully determined and applied as a correction accommodate the gradual voltage drop during the life of the to all chronometer readings. usually at three-year and keep the correct time for at least 5 minutes while the intervals. when the center of the Sun or Moon is 10-16 miles are not unreasonable. Various types of artificial horizons have been used. of course. except that the dip (height of eye) correction does large errors. and a The chronometer is designed to operate for a minimum special balance designed to compensate for temperature of 1 year on a single set of batteries. computing and plotting sextants are generally much more costly to manufacture than errors. either spring wound or digital. The Marine Chronometer electrically. They are maintained on GMT directly All chronometers and watches should be checked from radio time signals. The difference between GMT and chronometer batteries are changed. Also. deflection of the vertical. also known as UT) and taken to the bridge should be sent to a chronometer repair shop for cleaning wing for recording sight times. A spring-driven chronometer is set approximately to The meter face is marked to indicate when the battery Greenwich mean time (GMT) and is not reset until the should be replaced. In practice. At maximum set with a comparing watch. no correction for semidiameter is required. Single altitude observations in a moderate sea can be in including a bubble. This difference. CHRONOMETERS 1616. . (2 miles). A calibrated adjustment capability is provided to driven watch principally in that it contains a variable lever adjust for the aging of the crystal. Artificial Horizon Sextants errors of 30 miles or more are common. artificial-horizon refraction. any useful observations are virtually impossible to obtain. is fast (F) if chronometer time is later than GMT. a skilled observer artificial-horizon sextants have provision for making using a 2-minute averaging bubble or pendulum sextant can observations with the natural horizon as a reference. the error by a matter of degrees. An erratic rate indicates a defective instrument requiring repair. the watch is Quartz crystal marine chronometers have replaced started at a known GMT by chronometer. Altitudes observed by artificial-horizon sextants are At sea. and the and does not include additional errors such as abnormal need for providing a horizontal reference. The chronometer continues to operate instrument is overhauled and cleaned. even a gentle roll causes sextant. results are not generally as satisfactory as by marine sextant. This type of instrument is When the horizon is obscured by ice or haze. This eliminates chronometer error regularly with a radio time signal. bubble has been most widely used. Because of their more complicated optical systems. However. it can be reset Navigational Aids. Under these conditions observational errors of not apply. with virtually no roll or pitch. The quartz crystal is temperature timepiece used aboard ship to provide accurate time for compensated and is hermetically sealed in an evacuated celestial observations. In a heavy sea. Should the second radio time signals are listed in NIMA Pub. gyroscope. observed. and the elapsed spring-driven chronometers aboard many ships because of time of each sight added to this to obtain GMT of the sight. Watches which chronometer error changes in 1 day is called chronometer rate. may also be used for celestial observations. This. which is set to chronometer intervals of about three years. non-emitting system. Of these. 117. The basic element for time generation is a quartz The spring-driven marine chronometer is a precision crystal oscillator. etc. Times and frequencies of (CE) and watch error (WE) corrections. but measure altitudes to an accuracy of perhaps 2'. polar fitted as a backup system to inertial and other positioning navigators can sometimes obtain better results with an systems in a few aircraft. their greater accuracy. 2-minute observation is increased to perhaps 5 to 10 miles. On land. chronometer error (CE). fulfilling the requirement for a self. 1617. results should subject to the same errors as those observed by marine approach those on land. Quartz Crystal Marine Chronometers A stop watch. chronometer has a built-in push button battery test meter. and pendulum. In steady flight through smooth air the error of a marine sextants. a spring-driven chronometer time (GMT. A chronometer differs from a spring. The amount by 1618. refers to the accuracy of measurement only. device to maintain even pressure on the mainspring. and slow (S) if earlier. Radio hand be in error by a readable amount. called batteries while maintaining accuracy requirements.

The grammed calculators are at least as robust in construction. making it possible to celestial navigation problems. Using a calculator or sight reduction program. certainly one of the professional navigator’s such as inventory control or personnel administration. Calculators eliminate several potential sources of ware or inexpensive programs are available which take up error in celestial navigation. tronic charts. than the sextant itself. of the fix by averaging out errors in taking the sights. elec- practical using mathematical or tabular methods. sailings. While not considered “instruments” in the strict sense If the vessel carries a computer for other ship’s chores of the word. tides. Navigational Calculators for. Typically they will also take refine a celestial position much more accurately than is care of route planning. a valuable con. Calculators also save space and weight. One small calculator can replace sible to take and solve half a dozen or more sights in a several heavy and expensive volumes of tables. and is inex. and permit the solution of little hard disk space and allow rapid solution of all types of many more sights in much less time. it is pos- sideration on many craft. This will increase the accuracy for backup use should the primary one fail. will last a lifetime with no maintenance except new bat- teries from time to time. and properly cared methods because it is free of rounding errors. Free- program.270 INSTRUMENTS FOR CELESTIAL NAVIGATION 1619. fraction of the time it would normally take to shoot two or pensive enough that there is little reason not to carry a spare three and solve them by hand. . there most useful tools is the navigational calculator or computer is little reason not to use it for celestial navigation. and numerous other tasks. The pre-pro. weather routing. computerized solution is always more accurate than tabular probably more so.