sextant, aircraft navigation, celestial navigation

How Did Aircraft Use Celestial Navigation – Compass and Sextant Sensor

Before modern aircraft navigation systems like GPS and INS to fly RNAV for example, Precision approaches, Non-precision approaches, celestial navigation was used to find aircraft’s position on the planet or in the celestial sphere. The most basic method of celestial navigation is to use the positions of the Sun and the Moon. With modern technology, however, one can use the positions of other celestial bodies to find their position on the planet or in the celestial sphere. Even with the possibility of navigation, the aircraft can’t fly with IFR vs VFR flight rules using this method of navigation.

The most common method of celestial navigation used in modern times is the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Before the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS) in the 1960s, aircraft were navigated using a constellation of stars and other celestial bodies, most notably the sun and the moon.

Using a sextant, an astute navigator could find their position on a map by measuring the angle between their position and the horizon and then using that angle to find the corresponding angle on a chart. This process was slow, but it was very accurate, enabling aircraft to land at night or in areas without recognized maps or landmarks. Because the positioning of the sun and the moon are so well known, finding one’s position relative to them is much easier than finding one’s position relative to a constellation of stars.

Aircraft Celestial Navigation – How Did Aircraft Use Celestial Navigation

The basic method of celestial navigation used to find an aircraft’s position on the planet or in the celestial sphere is known as the sextant method.

How Did Aircraft Use Celestial Navigation

Sextant – The Celestial Navigation Sensor

The sextant method relies on the use of a sextant which is known as the celestial navigation sensor, a navigational instrument consisting of a pair of mirrors, a sighting tube, and a set of scales.

The mirrors are used to reflect light from the celestial body of your choice and the horizon back to the sighting tube, which is used to measure the angle between your position and the horizon.

To use the sextant, you simply spin the device around so that your body is facing the horizon, and then move to the location where you want to find your aircraft position.

Sextant in navigation

Finding your position on the planet or in the celestial sphere is quite simple if you have a device known as a sextant.

Simply stated, a sextant measures angles. Using a configuration of mirrors, a sextant allows you to look at your celestial body and the horizon at the same time. As you spin the sextant around so that your body faces the horizon, the device will measure the angle between your position and the horizon.

Aircraft celestial navigation compass

Unlike the sextant method, celestial navigation using a compass requires a device known as a celestial navigation compass. Celestial navigation compasses sometimes referred to as sextant compasses or sextant mirrors, are based on the same concept as a sextant, with the addition of a set of compasses to the device.

To use a celestial navigation compass, you point the device at the celestial body of your choice and the horizon, and then spin the device to face the corresponding angle on the chart. The compasses on a celestial navigation compass use the magnetic North and South Poles, allowing you to find your position on the planet or in the celestial sphere.

Celestial navigation is used to find the position of celestial bodies other than the sun and the moon, such as the North Star or the North Pole, and when used in combination with the positioning functions of the navigation instrument to find your position on the planet or in the celestial sphere.

While using a navigational instrument to find your position in the celestial sphere is incredibly accurate, it also has some major disadvantages.

The first major disadvantage is that finding your position in the celestial sphere requires a significant amount of time. For example, if you want to find your position on the planet or in the celestial sphere at 10 degrees North Latitude, you would use the North Star as your celestial body and the latitude of 10 degrees as your angular measurement, and then combine the two to find your position on the planet or in the celestial sphere.

Using celestial navigation has another disadvantage when used at low visibility. The sextant method, which can be used at low visibility, using a celestial navigation instrument requires a significant amount of time at low visibility.

Other methods of Celestial navigation have a number of disadvantages when compared to the sextant method. First and foremost, the sextant method is extremely accurate, enabling aircraft to land at night or in areas without recognized maps or landmarks. Second, the sextant method is very easy to use.

GPS and Celestial Navigation

Celestial navigation is still used by some aircraft navigators today.

In modern aircraft navigation systems like GPS, IN, and GNS, celestial navigation is used to supplement, not replace, the positioning functions of the navigational systems. Instead of using a device like a sextant to find one’s position on the planet or in the celestial sphere, one can use a navigation system like GPS to find their position on a map.

Using this navigation system, one can find their position on the planet or in the celestial sphere by measuring the position of the sun or the moon and then using that position to find their position on the planet or in the celestial sphere. One of the most common methods of celestial navigation used in modern times is the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

GPS uses a constellation of satellites, or space probes, to determine one’s position on the planet or in the celestial sphere. Because the positioning of the sun and the moon are so well known, finding one’s position relative to them is much easier than finding one’s position relative to a constellation of stars.

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