US Navy to start teaching sailors to navigate by the stars

This year, more than 1,200 midshipmen with the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps are learning the ancient art of navigating by the stars for the first time in almost 20 years. 

In the 1990's, the Navy stopped teaching celestial navigation for its officer training curriculum because of increased reliance on navigation technologies such as GPS. 

However, the Navy is now reintroducing this to its training curriculum because of an increased awareness of the vulnerability of navigation systems to hacking. 

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A sextant (pictured) is a device that measures the angle between two objects. The sextant allows the navigator to measure the actual distance from the observer to the geographical position of a celestial body, and all new recruits in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps will learn how o use one

A sextant (pictured) is a device that measures the angle between two objects. The sextant allows the navigator to measure the actual distance from the observer to the geographical position of a celestial body, and all new recruits in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps will learn how o use one

According to Vanderbilt University researchers, navigating by the stars is a method perfected in 1800s using the horizon, celestial bodies and a tool called a sextant - a device that measures the angle between two objects.  

A sextant allows the navigator to measure the actual distance from the observer to the geographical position of a celestial body.

The program created by Vanderbilt University researcher, called VandyAstroNav , was launched in April 2015 and has been freely available on the internet since then. Pictured is one of the illustrations in the Vandy AstroNav course

The program created by Vanderbilt University researcher, called VandyAstroNav , was launched in April 2015 and has been freely available on the internet since then. Pictured is one of the illustrations in the Vandy AstroNav course

Using the intercept method, navigators can obtain both their latitude and longitude simultaneously by obtaining two or more lines of position from narrowing down the location of celestial bodies observed through a sextant.

Once these lines of position are obtained, their intercept marks the navigator's position. 

This Spring, a research team at Vanderbilt University helped midshipmen with their training, led by Dr Susan Stewart, Adjoint Assistant Professor of Astronomy. 

The midshipmen learned how to take sightings of various celestial bodies and then consult a set of nautical tables to narrow them down to a geographical position. 

HOW TO NAVIGATE BY THE STARS

Navigating by the stars is a method perfected in 1800s using the horizon, celestial bodies and a tool called a sextant - a device that measures the angle between two objects using two mirrors. 

A sextant allows the navigator to measure the actual distance from the observer to the geographical position of a celestial body.  

Using the intercept method, navigators can obtain both their latitude and longitude simultaneously by obtaining two or more lines of position from the reduction of celestial bodies observed through a sextant.

Once these lines of position are obtained, their intercept marks the navigator's position. 

Using_sextant_swing.gif

To use a sextant with the sun, the navigator must: 

Point the sextant to the horizon Press the sextant's clamp to release the index bar Bring the sun to the horizon Release the clamp and adjust to the sun's position Swing the sextant to verify the sun's position along the line  And finally, read the resulting angle

The program, called VandyAstroNav, was launched in April 2015 and

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