Wednesday, December 12, 2007


A Nautical Almanac is a publication describing the positions and movements of celestial bodies for the purpose of enabling navigators to use celestial navigation to determine the position of their ship while at sea including the sun, moon, planets, and 57 stars chosen for their ease of identification and wide spacing. The Almanac specifies for each whole hour of the year the position on the Earth's surface at which each body is directly overhead. The Sun, Moon and Planets move independently and so are specified separately, but for the stars only Aries is specified, the other stars having a set angular distance from that. The navigator can use difference tables to extrapolate the position of each object for each minute of time.

To find the position of a ship or aircraft by celestial navigation, the navigator uses a sextant to take a 'sight' to measure the apparent height of the object above the horizon, and notes the time from a marine chronometer. The object's position is then looked up in the Nautical Almanac for that particular time and after allowance for refraction, instrument error and other errors, a position circle on the Earth's surface is calculated.