Sight reduction

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sight reduction is the process of deriving from a sight the information needed for establishing a line of position.

Sight is defined as the observation of the altitude, and sometimes also the azimuth, of a celestial body for a line of position; or the data obtained by such observation.[1]

Nowadays sight reduction uses the equation of the circle of equal altitude to calculate the altitude of the celestial body,

and the azimuth is obtained from by:

With the observed altitude , and are the parameters of the Marcq St Hilaire (Intercept method) intercept for the line of position:

Correction to the sextant altitude
Marcq St Hilaire intercept for the line of position

With the latitude (North - positive, South - negative), the longitude (East - positive, West - negative), is the local hour angle, and are the declination and Greenwich hour angle of the body observed, and the calculated altitude. is the calculated azimuth of the body.

Basic procedures involved computer sight reduction or longhand tabular methods.

Tabular sight reduction

The methods included are:

  • The Nautical Almanac Sight Reduction (NASR, originally known as Concise Tables for Sight Reduction or Davies, 1984, 22pg)
  • Pub. 249 (formerly H.O. 249, Sight Reduction Tables for Air Navigation, A.P. 3270 in the UK, 1947–53, 1+2 volumes)
  • Pub. 229 (formerly H.O. 229, Sight Reduction Tables for Marine Navigation, H.D. 605/NP 401 in the UK, 1945ish, 6 volumes. And the variant of HO-229: Sight Reduction Tables for Small Boat Navigation, known as Schlereth, 1983, 1 volume)
  • H.O. 214 (Tables of Computed Altitude and Azimuth, H.D. 486 in the UK, 1936–46, 9 vol.)
  • H.O. 211 (Dead Reckoning Altitude and Azimuth Table, known as Ageton, 1931, 36pg. And 2 variants of H.O. 211: Compact Sight Reduction Table, also known as Ageton–Bayless, 1980, 9+ pg. S-Table, also known as Pepperday, 1992, 9+ pg.)
  • H.O. 208 (Navigation Tables for Mariners and Aviators, known as Dreisonstok, 1928, 113pg.)

Longhand haversine sight reduction

This method is a practical procedure to reduce celestial sights with the needed accuracy, without using electronic tools such as calculator or a computer. And it could serve as a backup in case of malfunction of the positioning system aboard.


The first approach of a compact and concise method was published by R. Doniol in 1955[2] and involved haversines. The altitude is derived from , in which , , .

The calculation is:

n = cos(LatDec)
m = cos(Lat + Dec)
a = hav(LHA)
Hc = arcsin(na ⋅ (m + n))

Ultra compact sight reduction

Haversine Sight Reduction algorithm

A practical and friendly method using only haversines was developed between 2014 and 2015,[3] and published in NavList.

A compact expression for the altitude was derived[4] using haversines, , for all the terms of the equation:

where is the zenith distance,

is the calculated altitude.

The algorithm if absolute values are used is:

if same name for latitude and declination (both are North or South)
 n = hav(|Lat| − |Dec|)
 m = hav(|Lat| + |Dec|)
if contrary name (one is North the other is South)
 n = hav(|Lat| + |Dec|)
 m = hav(|Lat| − |Dec|)
q = n + m
a = hav(LHA)
hav(ZD) = n + a · (1 − q)
ZD = archav() -> inverse look-up at the haversine tables
Hc = 90° − ZD

For the azimuth a diagram[5] was developed for a faster solution without calculation, and with an accuracy of 1°.

Azimuth diagram by Hanno Ix

This diagram could be used also for star identification.[6]

An ambiguity in the value of azimuth may arise since in the diagram . is E↔W as the name of the meridian angle, but the N↕S name is not determined. In most situations azimuth ambiguities are resolved simply by observation.

When there are reasons for doubt or for the purpose of checking the following formula[7] should be used:

The algorithm if absolute values are used is:

if same name for latitude and declination (both are North or South)
 a = hav(90° − |Dec|)
if contrary name (one is North the other is South)
 a = hav(90° + |Dec|)
m = hav(|Lat| + Hc)
n = hav(|Lat| − Hc)
q = n + m
hav(Z) = (an) / (1 − q)
Z = archav() -> inverse look-up at the haversine tables
if Latitude N:
 if LHA > 180°, Zn = Z
 if LHA < 180°, Zn = 360° − Z
if Latitude S:
 if LHA > 180°, Zn = 180° − Z
 if LHA < 180°, Zn = 180° + Z

This computation of the altitude and the azimuth needs a haversine table. For a precision of 1 minute of arc, a four figure table is enough.[8][9]

An example

 Lat = 34° 10.0′ N (+)
 Dec = 21° 11.0′ S (−)
 LHA = 57° 17.0′
Altitude Hc:
 a = 0.2298
 m = 0.0128
 n = 0.2157
 hav(ZD) = 0.3930
 ZD = archav(0.3930) = 77° 39′
 Hc = 90° - 77° 39′ = 12° 21′
Azimuth Zn:
 a = 0.6807
 m = 0.1560
 n = 0.0358
 hav(Z) = 0.7979
 Z = archav(0.7979) = 126.6°
 Because LHA < 180° and Latitude is North: Zn = 360° - Z = 233.4°

See also


  1. ^ The American Practical Navigator (2002)
  2. ^ Table de point miniature (Hauteur et azimut), by R. Doniol, Navigation IFN Vol. III Nº 10, Avril 1955 Paper
  3. ^ Rudzinski, Greg (July 2015). Ix, Hanno. "Ultra compact sight reduction". Ocean Navigator. Portland, ME, USA: Navigator Publishing LLC (227): 42–43. ISSN 0886-0149. Retrieved 2015-11-07.
  4. ^ Altitude haversine formula by Hanno Ix
  5. ^ Azimuth diagram by Hanno Ix.
  6. ^ Hc by Azimuth Diagram
  7. ^ Azimuth haversine formula by Lars Bergman
  8. ^
  9. ^ [1] Natural-Haversine 4-place Table; PDF; 51kB

External links

The article is a derivative under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. A link to the original article can be found here and attribution parties here. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use. Gpedia Ⓡ is a registered trademark of the Cyberajah Pty Ltd.