Celestial Navigation has been studied by seamen, navigators and explorers for generations. Prior to the days of GPS devices, a basic understanding of astronomy, geography and orbital mechanics was required to find your way at sea or on land. Midshipman were trained as young men, even boys, for generations by the worlds most powerful navies to be able to read the night sky like map.
Bowditch Lab is not a mere publication, but a collection of lessons and tools to convey the basics of celestial navigation to young people. This is not an attempt to replace or compete with courses and texts aimed at training adults to be sea ready navigators.
The first group that this will be tailored to is the middle school classroom, because that is what is available to me, but this would be perfect for scouting and other outdoors groups. Many people want to learn more about this fascinating area but do not think of themselves as getting ready to go to sea. Teach yourself, teach your children, join those who have looked up and seen their way home written in the sky.
My wife is a product of homeschooling, so we have really worked at making this applicable and usable for homeschooling familes as well.
I have arranged for hosting for this work at Bowditchlab.com. I have a background in computer science, navigation and history, but there are tools that are needed for this to be successful. There are a handful of Davis Mark3 sextants available and some old GPS devices, but modern navigation tools and a standard metal sextant are needed to make this project successful. The idea is to engage young people on every level with hands on experiences and interactive media so that Celestial Navigation does not feel like another math class, but a window into the past and a doorway to the future.
A tentative listing of Lessons
Lesson Number Lesson Name
Lesson 01 The Earth is a Big place, and yet we are so tiny
Lesson 02 Maps: Different ways of looking at the same thing
Lesson 03 Polaris, Latitude and the Nautical Mile
Lesson 04 Longitude and the speed of Earth's Rotation
Lesson 05 Relative and Apparent Motion
Lesson 06 Intro to the Celestial Sphere
Lesson 07 Zenith and the Noon Sighting
Lesson 08 Good Morning Mr. Bowditch: History of the Sextant
Lesson 09 The Horizon and the Importance of reference points
Lesson 10 Building your own Sextant
Lesson 11 Euclid Meets the Navigational Triangle: An intro to Spherical Trig
Lesson 12 The importance of being timely and Clearing Lunars
Lesson 13 The challenges of Navigation
Lesson 14 Dead Reckoning
Lesson 15 Intro to Land Nav: Working a Compass
Lesson 16 True vs Magnetic North; more on reading maps
Lesson 17 The intercept method
Lesson 18 A day with the Nautical Almanac
Lesson 19 Getting a fix 1,2,3 ... then 6,7 and 8
Lesson 20 Sextant vs GPS
Lesson 21 Sextant Piloting: on land or at sea
Lesson 22 Modern Advances
Lesson 23 Locating Navigational Stars
Lesson 24 More on Constellations
Lesson 25 Wrap up and Review
- (30 days)