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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Land navigation

If you can't make it to Mystic's Celestial Navigation Weekend, you can still celebrate the science of knowing where you are. Knowing your latitude and longitude is the first step to learning how to determine your local time, and March, the time of the spring equinox, is a great time to do it. As the world wakes from winter, tracking the sun's movement north towards the summer solstice is as important to gardeners wondering where the best patch of sun will be in the yard as it was to mariners surrounded by the sea.

Sundials on the internet lists sundial vendors and how to set them up, but more fun are their six sundial projects for you to make. They also have a good explanation of the difference between local time and standard time, tools for determining your latitude and longitude, and instructions for determining true north.

And don't stop with sunset; the night sky is one of our oldest navigation tools. The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich posts a wonderfully readable monthly article about what to look for in the night sky, with links to printing sky maps. More observatories can be found via the Librarian's Index to the Internet: choose the category, "Science," then "Astronomy," then "Observatories."

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