The Marine Sextant

• Learning Objectives
• Know the purpose of a marine sextant. • Apply proper procedures to determine the observed altitude (Ho) of a celestial body.

The Marine Sextant
• A marine sextant is nothing more than a device designed to measure the angle between two objects with a great deal of precision. • In celestial navigation, these two objects are
– a celestial body (star, sun, moon, or planet) – the visible horizon


Use of the Sextant • A sextant is used to determine the sextant altitude (hs) of a celestial body. • First. • When making an observation. the star should look as shown in the next slide. we have to decide which stars to observe.. this is done using a Rude Starfinder or other methods. ..


which we need to use the altitude-intercept method. .Determination of Observed Altitude (Ho) • We must make some corrections to hs to come up with the Ho.

Determination of Observed Altitude (Ho) • These corrections account for – index error (error in the sextant itself) – difference between visible and celestial horizon. due to the observer’s height of eye – adjustment to equivalent reading at the center of the earth and the center of the body – refractive effects of the earth’s atmosphere .

. this is known as index error. the view looks like the next slide.Index Correction • There may be some error present in the sextant itself.. • This is easily determined by setting the sextant to zero and observing the horizon. if there is no error..


often there is a slight error. In this case. the view looks a little different… .Index Correction • However.


Index Correction • To account for this error. we apply an index correction (IC). .

...Dip Correction • Next. we must account for the difference between the celestial horizon and the visible horizon. due to our height of eye. • The need for this correction is illustrated on the next slide. • This is known as the dip correction.


• Values of the dip correction are tabulated inside the front cover of the Nautical Almanac.Dip Correction • The dip correction is dependent upon the observer’s height of eye. .

Apparent Altitude • Now. ha = hs + IC + dip . • Simply put. we can determine the apparent altitude (ha). by applying the IC and the dip correction.

• This correction is known as the altitude correction and is tabulated inside the front cover of the Nautical Almanac. ..Altitude Correction • The last major correction accounts for the refractive effects of the earth’s atmosphere. • The next slide illustrates the need for this correction..

Altitude Correction .

Determination of Ho • The corrections needed to convert from the sextant altitude (hs) to observed altitude (Ho) are – IC (sextant error) – Dip (height of eye) – Altitude (refractive effects) .

• An additional correction is required if the observation is made under non-standard conditions of temperature or pressure.Additional Corrections • These corrections are all that are needed under normal circumstances to determine Ho of a star. .

Venus. we must also accout for – horizontal parallax (sun. or planets. and Mars) – semidiameter of the body (sun and moon) – augmentation (moon) . moon.Additional Corrections • If we are using the sun. moon. • In addition to the corrections we already mentioned. the problem becomes a bit more complicated.

Additional Corrections • These additional corrections make determination of Ho for the sun. • For simplicity’s sake. moon. and planets generally more difficult than those for a star. we’ll stick to determination of Ho for a star .

called a strip chart... • An example of a strip chart used for calculating Ho of Dubhe is shown on the next slide. . we normally use a form.Use of a Strip Chart • To walk us through the calculation.