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What is celestial navigation?

Those who use the placement of stars in the night sky in order to determine where to go to are using a practice called celestial navigation. Ancient peoples noticed the patterns associated with stars in the night sky and were able to study and record them in order to teach the following generations how to read the sky for navigation. The celestial equator, seen in the image included, resides between the south celestial pole and the north celestial pole. The stars on this celestial equator are how we see the stars — rising in the east and setting in the west. In the Northern hemisphere where we live, our northern most point in the sky is Polaris, a star that never rises or sets due to how far north it is in the sky. Although it never rises or sets, it moves in the way that it makes a very small circle pattern around the north pole. Other stars in this hemisphere also circle around the north pole, yet depending on their latitude, their circular pattern may be much larger in order to insinuate the rising and setting effect that we see. Stars such as Polaris that do not adhere to the rising and setting phenomena are labelled as circumpolar. Celestial navigation in ancient times identified stars in the sky such as Polaris or the Big Dipper and used these patterns to guide them in the right direction.

Have you ever used celestial navigation or followed the North Star? Do you think that it is still important to know and understand celestial navigation even though we have more advanced technology today?

Source: A Celestial Navigation


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