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# Daily Motion and

Coordinates
OF COORDINATES
Structure
7.1 Introduction
Objectives

## 7.2 Definitions of the Terms used in Horizon Coordinate System

7.3 The Apparent Daily Path of all Bodies
7.4 Relationship between Azimuth, Quadrantal Bearings and 360o Notation
Bearing
7.5 Rising and Setting of Bodies
7.6 The PZX Triangle
7.7 Drawing Figures on the Plane of the Rational Horizon
7.8 Summary
7.9 Key Words

7.1 INTRODUCTION
On a clear night while gazing the stars you notice a pattern of stars. How will you convey
the position of the pattern to your friend in your neighbourhood. Most likely you will
convey the position by approximate altitude and direction.
In celestial navigation the similar system of coordinates is used to define the position of
an astronomical body on the celestial sphere. It is literally based on the observer's view of
the sky. The observer uses coordinates altitude and azimuth to pin-point the position of
an astronomical body. This system of coordinate is called the horizon system of
coordinates. In this unit, we shall define the coordinates and the reference planes, great
circles used for measuring the coordinates.
Objectives
After studying this unit, you should be able to
• define rational horizon, zenith, nadir, vertical circle, prime vertical circle,
• define elevated pole and depressed pole,
• prove that the altitude of the elevated pole is equal to the observer’s latitude,
• define the observer’s upper and lower celestial meridian,
• identify the apparent daily path of all bodies,
• define true altitude, azimuth, and true zenith distance,
• explain the relationship between azimuth, quadrantal bearings and 360º
notation bearing,
• recognise rising and setting points and defines amplitude,
• recognise the parts of the PZX triangle, and
• draw figures on the plane of the rational horizon.

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7.2 DEFINITIONS
The Horizon System
The system is based on the position of the observer and the coordinates are
measured with reference to his meridian and plane.
Zenith
It is a point vertically above the observer or a line joining from the center of the
Earth through the observer to the celestial sphere is called the observer’s Zenith.
Point Z in Figure 7.1.
It is a point vertically below him or a point vertically opposite of Zenith on the
celestial sphere.
Rational Horizon (NES)
Rational horizon is a great circle on the celestial sphere the pole of which is the
Observer’s zenith or the great circle every point on which is 90 from the observer’s
zenith. The celestial horizon is always perpendicular to the navigator.
Vertical Circle
It is a great circle on the celestial sphere passing through the observer’s zenith and
Zenith
Error!

Rational NCP
Horizon O ♀

S N

E
SCP

Figure 7.1

## Prime Vertical Circle (ZE)

It is the vertical circle passing through East West points of observer’s rational
horizon. This great circle is reference used for defining amplitude of a body.
Principal Vertical Circle (NZS)
It is the vertical circle passing through North South points of observer’s rational
horizon. This great circle is reference used for defining azimuth of a body.

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Elevated and Depressed Pole Daily Motion and
Horizon System of
In the rational horizon system the observer is always perpendicular to the rational Coordinates

horizon and as the observer moves North or south along the meridian the celestial
sphere visible to him changes. When the observer is at the Equator his zenith is on
the equinoctial and the North and south celestial poles are on his rational horizon.
Z/Q

Error!

SCP/S N / NCP

## Figure 7.2 : Observer at Equator

As the observer moves North from the Equator, the north celestial poles get
elevated above his rational horizon equal to the Latitude and the south celestial
pole gets depressed below his rational horizon. In such condition the North
Celestial Pole (NCP) is referred to as the Elevated Pole and the South Celestial
Pole (SCP) as the Depressed Pole.
Z
Q Error!

P (NCP)

O Elevation
of Pole

SCP/S N

Depression
of Pole

SCP

## Figure 7.3 : Observer at North Latitude

To prove Elevation of the pole is equal to the Latitude of the observer :
In Figure 7.3
Arc NZ = 90º (Z is observer’s Zenith and N is a point on his rational horizon)
Arc NP + Arc PZ = 90º . . . (7.1)
Arc PQ = 90º (P is celestial pole and Q is a point on the equinoctial)
Arc PZ + Arc ZQ = 90º . . . (7.2)
Equating Eqs. (7.1) and (7.2)
Arc NZ + Arc PZ = Arc PZ+ Arc ZQ
Arc NZ (Elevation of the Celestial Pole) = Arc ZQ (Latitude of the Observer)
∴ Elevation of the Celestial Pole = Latitude of the Observer
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Q

P (NCP)

O Elevation
of Pole

SCP/S N

Depression
of Pole

SCP

## Figure 7.4 : Observer in North Latitude

When the observer moves south the south celestial pole gets elevated and north
celestial pole is depressed below his rational horizon.
Z
Q
SCP

Elevation of
Pole

S N

Depression
of Pole
P (NCP)

## 7.3 DRAWING FIGURES ON THE PLANE OF THE

RATIONAL HORIZON
The celestial bodies visible to the observer at any given time can be also represented on
the plane of the observer’s rational horizon. The depiction on the plane of Rational
horizon can be visualised as projection of the bodies on the rational horizon plane from a
light source at infinity. The dashed parallel arrows are showing the projection of different
points in Figure 7.6.
Q Z

P (NCP)

SCP
Plane of Observer’s
Rational Horizon

Figure 7.6
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Daily Motion and
Horizon System of
N Coordinates
A
d d’

X
W E
Z

Q U

## Observer’s Rational Horizon

Figure 7.7

In Figure 7.7 NESW, the outer circle represents the observer’s rational horizon. Z is the
observer’s zenith, NPZQS the principal vertical, WZE, the observer’s prime vertical,
PZS, the observer’s celestial meridian, WQE represents the Equinoctial, dd′ the
declination circle of the body and P the elevated celestial pole.
To draw the diagram to scale it would be convenient to draw the circle of radius of
9 units to represent 90°, between Z and the rational horizon. Q is marked to the South or
North of the zenith, according to the observer’s latitude (If latitude is North Q is
depressed southward and if latitude is south Q being north), ZQ is measured equal to the
latitude. NP is equal to ZQ and is marked from north point of the rational horizon if
latitude is north and from south if latitude is south. The declination circle is marked north
or south of equinoctial as per declination. The points d and d’ are marked by angle at the
zenith equal to amplitude. Declination circle can be also marked by measuring QX on the
meridian equal to declination northward or southward according to name of the
declination. In above figure UX represents the North declination of the body X. In this
diagram all heavenly bodies above the rational horizon can be shown. PXU is drawn with
free hand curved towards the rational horizon passing thru x and represents the celestial
meridian of the observer. ZXA represents the vertical circle passing thru the body and AX
is the true altitude of the body where as ZX is the zenith distance.
PX represents the distance of the body from the elevated pole normally referred to as the
polar distance of the body. PZ equals to (90°-lat), is referred to as the co-latitude.

## 7.4 THE APPARENT DAILY PATH OF ALL BODIES

The Earth rotates on its axis from west to east, due which all heavenly bodies appear to
describe an east to west motion around the Earth each day. Thus a heavenly body appears
to rise on the eastern horizon, move westwards, its altitude increasing till the body is on
the observer’s meridian. Then the body is said to culminate or transit the meridian. After
culmination, it continues to move westwards decreasing in altitude till it sets over the
western horizon.
For an observer at the equator all bodies will be above his horizon for about 12 hrs and
below his horizon for same duration.
For an observer in north latitude the heavenly bodies whose declination is north will be
above his horizon for more than 12 hrs and below his horizon for less than 12 hrs. The
bodies whose declination is south will be above his horizon for less than 12 hrs. And for
a stationary observer, the interval between rising and culmination of a body will be equal
to the interval between its culmination and setting, provided its declination remains
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Celestial Navigation unchanged. Also under the same circumstances, its amplitude at rising will be equal to
that at setting.

Z, Q

S, SCP N, NCP

Z
Error! Q

P (NCP)

S N

SCP

## Figure 7.9 : Observer in North Latitude

For an observer at the north pole the heavenly bodies whose declination is north will
remain above his horizon for 24 hrs and will not rise and set. The altitude of these bodies
will remain same all the time. Heavenly bodies with southerly declination will not be
visible.
Z, NCP

Error!

S, Q N

## Figure 7.10 : Observer at North Pole

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Daily Motion and
7.5 RISING AND SETTING OF BODIES Horizon System of
Coordinates
We have seen above that the heavenly bodies rise and set due to rotation of the earth. The
visible sun rise or moon rise occurs when the upper limb is visible.
Theoretical sunrise and sunset occurs when the True Sun’s centre is on the observer’s
rational horizon. The true altitude of the Sun is then 0° and its true zenith distance 90°.
The times of theoretical sunrise or sunset, can be obtained by solving the PZX triangle in
which ZX is 90°.
Due to refraction the sun appears higher than its actual altitude due to which the
theoretical sunrise is after visible sunrise.
In the nautical almanac the times of visible sunrise and sunset for various latitudes is
listed. Interpolation is necessary for latitude of the ship. Though the times given are
strictly Greenwich, Mean time of the occurrences on the Greenwich meridian for the
middle day, they may be taken as the LMT of the occurrence in any longitude for any of
the three days on the page without appreciable error, particularly in low latitudes.
To find accurate time of rising and setting, interpolation for longitude and for the day
(other than for the middle day on the page) would also be required.
The calculations of rising and setting times are covered in Unit 9.
Moonrise and Moonset
At visible moonrise and moonset, the true altitude of the Moon is approximately
0°07′ for an observer at sea level allowing 34′ for refraction, 16′ for semi-diameter
and 57′ for parallax (− 34′ − 16′ + 57′ = 07′). Thus in the case of the Moon,
visible and theoretical rising /setting occur at about the same time.
On the right hand day pages of the nautical almanac LMT of moonrise and
moonset on the Greenwich meridian is tabulated for each day, for various latitudes.
The times of these phenomenon for the first day on the following page is also
tabulated to help in interpolation.
Due to large (about 50 minutes) daily retardation of moonrise and moonset a
correction for the observer’s longitude has also to be applied to the tabulated times
to obtain LMT moonrise or moonset at any position, in addition to interpolation
for latitude.
To find precise times of moonrise or moonset, first interpolate for latitude for the
day in question and also for the preceding day, if in East longitude, and for the
following day if in west longitude. The difference between the two times so
obtained multiplied by the observer’s longitude and divided by 360°, gives the
longitude correction.
Generally the longitude correction is to be subtracted for East longitudes and
added for West longitudes. This rule may not hold well particularly in high
latitudes and near spring and autumnal equinoxes, when moonrise and moonset
times on succeeding days may become earlier.
The calculations for rising and setting for moon rise will be covered in Unit 9.
The time of theoretical rising and setting of bodies may be calculated using
nautical almanac and by solving quadrantal spherical triangle.

## 7.6 THE PZX TRIANGLE

The celestial triangle or PZX triangle is formed by the coordinates used in the
geographical coordinate system, celestial coordinate system and the horizon coordinate
system. Let us revise the different coordinate systems.
Systems Geographical Equinoctial Horizon 45
Horizontal Reference Equator Equinoctial Rational Horizon
Horizontal Grid Parallels of Parallels of altitude or
Parallels of Latitude declination or circles of equal
Declination circles altitude
Vertical Reference Celestial Meridian
passing thru Principle/Prime
Prime meridian
Greenwich, Aries, vertical circle
Observer
Vertical Grid Hour circles or
Meridians Vertical circles
Celestial meridians
Horizontal Coordinate Azimuth, Azimuth
Longitude GHA, SHA, LHA
angle or Amplitude
Vertical Coordinate Latitude Declination True Altitude
Poles Earth’s Poles, N/S N/S Celestial poles Zenith and Nadir
PZX Sides Co-Latitude, PZ Polar distance, PX Zenith distance, ZX

The Celestial triangle PZX is a spherical triangle on the celestial sphere.The vertices of
the celestial triangle are the elevated pole (P), observer’s Zenith (Z), the celestial body
(X). The sides of the triangle are great circle sides and so the triangle is a spherical
triangle PZX on the celestial sphere. Its side are PZ (co-latitude, 90º-latitude), ZX (Zenith
Distance, 90-True Altitude), PX (Polar distance, 90 ± declination). The angles of the
celestial triangle are P (Hour angle, Z (Azimuth angle), X (Parallatic angle).
Most celestial navigation calculations involve the solution of the spherical triangle PZX.
The PZX triangle is used in the following :
(i) To find true azimuth to find compass error.
(ii) To find longitude where the DR Lat. cuts the PL and direction of the PL.
(iii) To identify an unknown star.
(iv) To compute altitude of the celestial body.
(v) To find initial course, final course and great circle distance when sailing
along a great circle track.
(vi) Rising and setting of celestial bodies.
(vii) Duration of day light.
Z
Q

X P

S GP N

SCP

Figure 7.11

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Daily Motion and
Horizon System of
Coordinates

The celestial triangle can also be shown on the plane of the observer’s rational horizon.
N

P
Polar Distance, 90 + Decl.
Co-Latitude, 90 − Lat

W Z E

Q
M
D’ D
X

S
Zenith Distance, 90 − T. Alt.

## In Spherical triangle PZX

PZ = Co Latitude = 90 – Latitude
PX = 90 – Declination
(When Lat. and Declination of same name)
PX = 90 + Declination
(Lat. and Declination of opposite name)
ZX = Zenith distance = 90 – T. Altitude
∠ P = EHA (when body East of meridian)
∠ P = LHA (when body West of meridian)
∠ Z = Azimuth Angle
∠ X = Parallatic Angle
NP = Elevation of the pole = Latitude
QZ = Latitude of the observer
MX = Declination of the body
AX = True Altitude
QZ = Latitude of the observer
NESW = Observer’s Rational Horizon.

## 7.7 AZIMUTH, QUADRANTAL BEARINGS AND 360º

NOTATION BEARING
Azimuth is defined as the angle at the zenith or arc of rational horizon contained
between the principal vertical and vertical circle passing through the body.
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Celestial Navigation Quadrantal Azimuth may be defined as the shortest angle subtended at the observer’s
zenith between the North or South principal vertical to the vertical circle passing thru the
body measured eastward or westward. This is the quadrantal azimuth and is measured
East or West of the North or South principal vertical. The value of the quadrantal
Azimuth is less than 90º and the azimuth is prefixed “N” or “S” depending on whether
the body is bearing northerly or southerly from the observer and in calculations the name
of the “c” correction is given. The azimuth is suffixed “E” depending on whether the
body is east of the observer’s meridian or rising and its suffixed “W” depending on
whether the body is west of the observer’s meridian or setting.
In the Figure 7.13, Azimuth S30º W, indicated by lined angle, means that the body is 30º
west of south principal vertical.
True Azimuth or 360º Notation bearing may be defined as the angle subtended at the
observer contained between the True North and the vertical circle passing thru the body
measured clockwise. Its value varies from 000º to 360º.
In Figure 7.13, it has been indicated by an arrow and its value is 210º.
Azimuth Angle is defined as the angle Z of the spherical triangle PZX. The value of the
Azimuth angle is less than 180º. In Figure 7.13, it is the dot shaded angle. Its value is
150º.
N

P
Error!

W E

D’ D

S
Figure 7.13

SAQ 1
(a) Which pole is elevated and by how much if the observer is in Latitude
22º S?
(b) Show the following on plane of the observer’s (in Latitude 15º S) rational
horizon
(i) A body, declination 10º S on the observer’s meridian
(ii) A body, of declination 30 º N and theoretically rising
(iii) Sun, declination zero degrees and setting
(iv) A star declination S 29º and Azimuth S20ºE
(c) What is the true bearing of the star in question above?
(d) Quadrantal bearing of a star is N25ºW for an observer in Northern
Hemisphere. Find the True bearing of star and the azimuth angle.

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(e) An observer in 34º 31′S latitude observed true altitude of star Spica Daily Motion and
Horizon System of
(Declination 11º 07’S) as 45º 18′. Find the sides of the celestial triangle so Coordinates
formed.
(f) Amplitude of a body is E 10º N, what is its true bearing.

7.8 SUMMARY
The observer identifies the position of the body in the sky by azimuth and altitude of the
body with reference to his meridian and rational horizon. These two coordinates
eventually give him the direction of his position line and radius of position circle. The
two coordinates are observer specific and will vary with change in position. In the
horizon system the observer’s zenith is pole.
The navigator combines the geographical, equinoctial and horizon system to form the
navigation triangle PZX. This triangle is solved in celestial navigation to obtain position
lines, that are combined to get a fix.

## 7.9 KEY WORDS

Zenith : It is a point vertically above the observer.
Nadir : It is a point vertically below the observer.
Rational Horizon : Rational horizon is a great circle on the celestial
sphere every point on which is 90 from observer’s
zenith.
Vertical Circle : It is a great circle on the celestial sphere passing
through the observer’s zenith and Nadir.
Prime Vertical Circle : It is the vertical circle passing through East west
points of observer’s rational horizon.
Principal Vertical Circle : It is the vertical circle passing through North
South points of observer’s rational horizon.
Circles of Equal Altitude : Circles of equal altitude are small circles on the
celestial sphere parallel to the plane of rational
horizon.
True Altitude : It is the arc of vertical circle passing through the
body contained between the rational horizon and
the centre of the body.
True Zenith Distance : It is the arc of vertical circle passing through the
body contained between the observer’s zenith and
the centre of the body.
Azimuth : It is the angle at the observer’s zenith or arc of the
observer’s rational horizon contained between the
principal vertical and the vertical circle passing
thru the body. It is measured east or west of the
observers meridian from North or South.
Amplitude : It is the angle at the observer’s zenith or arc of the
observer’s rational horizon contained between the
prime vertical and the vertical circle passing
through the body when the body is theoretically
rising or setting.
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