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A marine sextant accessory consisting of a tubular sighting vane, the function of which is to keep the line of vision parallel to the frame of the instrument when observing horizontal sextant angles.

Related Terms


The angular difference between the heading as indicated by a lubber’s line, and the actual heading; the horizontal angle, at the center of an instrument, between a line through the lubber’s line and one parallel to the keel.


An optical instrument which displaces the line of sight parallel to itself, to permit a view which may otherwise be obstructed.


An instrument for establishing a horizontal line of sight, usually by means of a spirit level or a pendulum device.


An instrument for transferring a line parallel to itself. In its most common form it consists of two parallel bars or rulers connected in such manner that when one is held in place, the other may be moved, remaining parallel to its original position.


The lowest extremity of the moulded surface of the ship. At the point where this line cuts the midship section a horizontal line is drawn, and it is this line which acts as the datum for all hydrostatic calculations. This line may, or may not, be parallel to the LWL depending on the ship type.


The difference in apparent direction or position of an object when viewed from different points. For bodies of the solar system, parallax is the difference in the direction of the body due to the dis- placement of the observer from the center of the earth, and is called geocentric parallax, varying with the body’s altitude and distance from the earth. The geocentric parallel when a body is in the horizon is called horizontal parallax, as contrasted with the parallax at any altitude, called parallax in altitude. Parallax of the moon is called lunar parallax. In marine navigation it is customary to apply a parallax correction to sextant altitudes of the sun, moon, Venus, and Mars. For stars, parallax is the angle at the star subtended by the semimajor axis of the earth’s orbit and is called heliocentric or stellar parallax, which is too small to be significant as a sextant error.


A leveling instrument in which the line of sight is automatically kept horizontal by a built-in pendulum device (such as a horizontal arm and a plumb line at right angles to the arm).


The error introduced in the reading of an instrument when it is tilted, as a marine sextant held so that its frame is not perpendicular to the horizon.


Angular distance above the horizon; the arc of a vertical circle between the horizon and a point on the celestial sphere, measured upward from the horizon. Angular distance below the horizon is called negative altitude or depression. Altitude indicated by a sextant is called sextant altitude. Sextant altitude corrected only for inaccuracies in the reading (instrument, index, and personal errors, as applicable) and inaccuracies in the reference level (principally dip) is called apparent or rectified altitude. After all corrections are applied, it is called corrected sextant altitude or observed altitude. An altitude taken directly from a table, before interpolation, is called tabulated altitude. After interpolation, or if determined by calculation, mechanical device, or graphics, it is called computed altitude. If the altitude of a celestial body is computed before observation, and sextant altitude corrections are applied with reversed sign, the result is called precomputed altitude. The difference between computed and observed altitudes (corrected sextant altitudes), or between precomputed and sextant altitudes, is called altitude intercept or altitude difference. An altitude deter- mined by inexact means, as by estimation or star finder, is called an approximate altitude. The altitude of a celestial body on the celes- tial meridian is called meridian altitude. The expression ex- meridian altitude is applied to the altitude of a celestial body near the celestial meridian, to which a correction is to be applied to deter- mine the meridian altitude. A parallel of altitude is a circle of the celestial sphere parallel to the horizon, connecting all points of equal altitude.


A fix determined from horizontal sextant angles between objects poorly located.

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