Now Playing: How to use a sextant
  • Description:  A sextant is an instrument used to measure the angle between any two visible objects. Its primary use is to determine the angle between a celestial object and the horizon which is known as the altitude. Making this measurement is known as sighting the object, shooting the object, or taking a sight and it is an essential part of celestial navigation. The angle, and the time when it was measured, can be used to calculate a position line on a nautical or aeronautical chart. A common use of the sextant is to sight the sun at solar noon and to measure the elevation (altitude) angle at night from the horizon plane to Polaris to find ones latitude. Since the sextant can be used to measure the angle between any two objects, it can be held horizontally to measure the angle between any two landmarks which will allow for calculation of a position on a chart. A sextant can also be used to measure the Lunar distance between the moon and another celestial object (e.g., star, planet) in order to determine Greenwich time which is important because it can then be used to determine the longitude.