Celestial Navigation is the art and science of navigating by the stars, sun, moon, and planets, and is one of the oldest of human arts. With the rise of radio and electronic means of finding location – especially with the increasingly popular GPS, based on satellite transmissions that can tell us our latitude and longitude within feet – knowledge of celestial navigation has experienced a precipitous decline.
The basic theory behind Celestial Navigation is simply that we find our unknown position from a known position. If we have some information, we can deduce the rest.
There are three common elements to celestial navigation, whether one is floating in space, or floating on the ocean. They are;
- Knowledge of the positions of heavenly bodies with respect to time,
- Angular measurements (altitudes) between heavenly objects and a known reference.
The reference can be another heavenly object, or in the case of marine navigation, the horizon.