Primitive Navigation - Navigational Stars

This activity was made by John Huth for his Primitive Navigation class, so his students will have practical experience working with primitive navigation tools through this experiment. This activity will help students understand navigational stars.

Using a protractor with a plumb-bob, a compass, and a pad of paper, students must identify a number of visible navigational stars and measure their altitude and azimuth. The altitude is determined using the protractor. To determine the azimuth, they have to hold up the plumb bob to the star and then let it hang, identify a landmark along the horizon at the same azimuth and then find that landmark's azimuth with the compass. They do this for at least three stars and then plot them both in observer based coordinates, and on celestial coordinates. Preferably at least one of the stars should be circumpolar, and below the north celestial pole. They then wait for an hour or more and return and again measure the altitude and azimuths of the same stars and plot them on the observer-based and celestial coordinates to see how the motion works. Students hopefully can understand the motion of stars at night and test their ability to identify stars without using a star chart.

The students may need some coaching at first - many of them have never done anything like this. The instructor should be competent in identifying stars - would suggest going out a few days ahead of time and trying the exercise themselves.

Attached are the instructions to the assignment

assignment_5.docx868 KB