The Faculty of Maritime Studies and TransportThe Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transport
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Nautical Studies

Celestial Navigation


The subject of celestial navigation includes descriptions and understandings of astronomical concepts for the purposes of navigation. Content includes:

Basics of spherical trigonometry: Spherical triangle; Spherical coordinates; Difference between sphere, WGS-84 ellipsoid and Geoid and mappings between coordinates; Sinus theorem; Cosine theorem; Properties of spherical triangles; Napier's rules. Examples: large circle and parallel.

Voyage planning: Cylindrical and Mercator projection; Sailing on the rhumb line; Sailing on great circle; Mixed navigation; Creating a detailed voyage plan. Determining the optimal path using meteo-ocean reports. Use of the ECDIS voyage planning system.

Celestial navigation - Basics: Coordinate systems: urban and astronomical; Theory of time: determination of time and time zones, time equation, hour angle; Celestial body height and its corrections; Description and use of Sextant; Description and use of Nautical almanac.

Celestial navigation - Positioning: Identification of stars; Celestial positioning methods; Marcq St.Hilaire Method; Determining the position of a moving vessel using celestial positioning methods; Determination of latitude and longitude by means of the polaris, ex-meridian method, time method; Determining the rise and set of celestial bodies; A method of correcting the deviation of ship compasses with the help of celestial bodies. Use of ECDIS system for plotting position obtained with celestial methods.

Celestial navigation - Advanced methods: Calculation of position; Use of computers and smartphones in celestial navigation; Practical exercises using star charts, binoculars and a telescope for sky orientation;

Content according to IMO Model course 7.03:


  • Solar system
  • Celestial sphere and equinoctial system of coordinates
  • Hour angle
  • Daily motion and horizontal system of coordinates
  • Sextant and altitude corrections
  • Amplitude
  • Time and equation of time
  • Nautical Almanac
  • Latitude by meridian altitude
  • Pole Star observations
  • Position fixing

Content according to IMO Model course 7.01:


  • Voyage planning for all conditions by acceptable methods of plotting ocean tracks


Celestial navigation.


Goals and competencies

To get knowledge of expertise and responsibilities regarding basic requirements for conducting celestial navigation. To understand basic concepts and elements of ship management from the perspective of different celestial methods. Students must be able to conduct celestial navigation in all conditions with the knowledge they have gained.


Special features:

Implementation of the learning content among others include requirements in accordance with the provisions of the STCW Convention A-II / 1, A-II/2  and the recommendations of the »Master and Chief Mate (Model course 7.01)« and »Officer in charge of a navigational watch (Model course 7.03)« International Maritime Organization, London, 2014

Basic literature

  1. T. Cunliffe; Celestial navigation; Willey, 2010
  2. B. Hofmann-Wellenhof, K. Legat, M. Wieser; Navigation – Principles of positioning and gudance; Springer, 2003
  3. W.F.Schmidt; Astronomische navigation; Springer, 1996
  4. F.Avsec, M.Prosen; Astronomija; DMFA, 2006