STAR & PLANET IDENTIFICATION

I spotted Pelican Pete going up the mast to check his rigging, 
so I figured that this was a perfect time to ask him a question.Pelican Pete!  I've been trying to learn the stars and constellations, 
but it is more boring than trying to learn Morse code.  
Do you have any tips on how to make it easier?”

Pete replied, “Memorizing the stars is like memorizing the exploded 
diagram of your bilge pump in the user's manual. It may come in handy 
on a dark stormy night, but it is more practical to keep a paper copy 
of the manual in a zip-lock baggie, rather than trying to memorize it. 

The same is true of your star chart.  In fact, it is important to learn 
to do star and planet sights without knowing their names.  
In other words, shoot first, then figure out what it was later.  Sometimes when the conditions are the worst, we may only see  
fleeting glimpses of a body through the cloud cover. If  there is 
a patch of clear horizon below it, then you might be able to get 
a good sight on it.  Under these overcast conditions, you will 
probably not be able to see enough of the constellation to 
identify the star.  In the case of a planet, knowledge of the 
constellations doesn't help much because the planets move through 
the constellations. 

Without knowing the name of the body, you can easily figure it out 
if you took a compass bearing of it, right after you get the sextant 
sight.  So in a critical situation, with a heavy cloud cover, it is 
best to just concentrate on getting some good sights, with compass 
bearings, then identify the bodies later.

To identify stars and planets, NavPak has a Globe View, Sky View, 
and Star Chart. These are helpful to visualize the celestial sphere 
from various different perspectives, but the Star & Planet Identifier 
panel is the most important identification tool during overcast 
conditions where we can only briefly see a star here and there, 
through windows in the clouds.”



To be continued...