Celestial Navigation

Discipline: Astronomy
Instructor: Nelson
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 12:50
End: 14:05
Field Work: Celestial Navigation
Prerequisites: Algebra, Trigonometry Download Syllabus

Never be lost again! Find your way on sea or land by employing celestial and terrestrial techniques. Acquire expertise in using navigators’ tools (sextant, compass, and charts) and learn the steps to the celestial dance of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. This course relies on practical skills and collaborative problem-solving, while utilizing historical artifacts and student-built devices. Algebra, geometry, and high school trig required.

Field Work

This course is one big field lab that uses the ship and the voyage as the laboratory. The laboratories are the key element in this course. Students are expected to attend them all and make up any that are missed. The labs will most often occur during class time, although a few require night observations and some will be constrained by the observing goals such as making noon curves and observing sunrise and sunset. Noon observations will be scheduled for Study Days if possible. Labs are usually worked on in teams of two or three students. Problems can be broken into manageable pieces and shared among group members, but each student should fill out his or her own lab sheet. The purpose of this group learning is that each student will learn more, not less, so it is important that everyone masters the material. During the the semester, students will work with new partners in every lab, until have worked at least once with every student in the class. Lab sessions usually end with a discussion of the group’s findings. We attempt to answer remaining questions and dispel misconceptions. Students should plan on always staying for the full duration of the lab time. If one finishes early, one can start on the problem set, help another team finish up, or do some other work until the group is ready to meet. Students are expected to keep a journal of observations and thoughts about navigation during the course. Journals will be periodically reviewed by both peers and the instructor. It is expected that students make at least two detailed observations for each lab and a prediction of what they expect to see in the future. Every lab write up should include some reflection on a concept touched on in the lab or in the reading. During a month, students are expected to carry out at least: 1. Four measurements of sunrises (or sunsets). 2. Four measurements of consecutive daily observations of the Moon. 3. Four measurements of a planet against the background stars. 4. Two noon curves using a quadrant. 5. One moon curve using a quadrant. Students will be divided into teams of 7 or 8 at the beginning of the voyage with the challenge of applying the techniques they are leaning with increasing sophistication to predict and plot the ship’s daily course. At the end of the semester, they will present their plotted course and logs with the course from the actual ship’s log and celebrate their new skills. The presentation will be graded with the whole team receiving the same grade based on: 1. Clarity - Has the talk been rehearsed? 2. Conceptual Content - What is the depth of understanding of techniques and uncertainties? 3. Presentation - Organization of the talk - How well did the team work together? Did the team keep to the scheduled time limit?