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Modern Celestial Navigation

May 18 - May 19

This is not your grandparents’ celestial navigation! A fast-paced introduction to celestial navigation from a 21st century perspective. In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn how to adjust and use sextants available on the market today. We’ll learn streamlined calculations using a common handheld solar-powered calculator. This workshop is designed especially for yachtsmen and recreational boaters. If you’re dreaming about a trans-oceanic voyage or a circumnavigation, in this workshop you’ll learn all the techniques to determine latitude and longitude anywhere on Earth using the Sun and the brighter stars. We’ll also discuss celestial navigation options for the Marion-Bermuda Race, which takes place in June of this year.

Celestial navigation stands as the only autonomous backup to GPS and electronic navigation, and it is a tradition that connects us with maritime history. Weather permitting, class participants will have opportunities to experiment with sextant observations. We’ll also learn how to use the Sun and stars as a highly accurate compass, a technique valuable in near-shore waters as well as blue-water sailing. This is real navigation, celestial navigation for the 21st century, not just a class about navigation.

Requirements: Basic addition and subtraction, good familiarity with latitude and longitude. Some familiarity with basic algebra, especially positive and negative numbers. You’ll need to purchase the recommended scientific calculator for the class: the “Casio fx-260 Solar” (original or newer “II” model). These are widely available for less than $10 at Walmart, Staples, and other stores.

Recommended for ages 18 and up, students as young as age 13 welcome.

Course is taught by Frank Reed, a gifted teacher and a recent guest “expert in celestial navigation” on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “StarTalk” science talk show on The National Geographic Channel.