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Celestial navigation is returning to the Naval Academy cirriculum

Why celestial navigation is important in the age of GPS technology
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Unsplash / Pixabay

The Navy is once again teaching celestial navigation as a back up in case GPS systems become unusable.

Celestial navigation, sometimes referred to as astronavigation, is a way for a navigator to use celestial bodies and angular measurements to know their position. The sun is used the most in celestial navigation, but the moon, a planet, or one of the 57 navigational stars may be used as well. 

A few of the popular guide stars are: Polaris, more commonly known as the “North Star”; Arcturus, a star in the constellations Boötes, the Spring Triangle asterism, and the Great Diamond; Antares, also called Alpha Scorpii, is the 15th brightest star in the sky and the brightest star in the Scorpius constellation; Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky and the brightest star in the constellation Carina; and Sirius is twice as bright as Canopus, making it the brightest star in Earth’s night sky.

Celestial navigation was brought back into the Naval Academy curriculum to minimize dependence on GPS systems.  At a hearing on Thursday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said that the Navy is also working on "other ways to get precision navigation and timing into our systems" that are "independent of GPS and potentially more precise." This is important not just for navigation, but weapons systems performance as well.

Many people use it for fun or tradition, but in this day and age, celestial navigation could be an important tool to learn.  GPS and electronics are incredibly helpful, but if something interrupts the service during an emergency, without knowing how to read a map or the position of the sun in the sky, many people could find themselves in a tough situation.

Though the chances of that are rare, it would be better to take a page from the Navy and have the backup plan. If all else fails, celestial navigation is a fun and beautiful hobby to have.

Source: Space Policy Online

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