Several methods are available for determining latitude; none requires accurate time. In an emergency, only the first correction is of practical significance. If suitable tables are not available, this correction can be estimated. The trailing star of Cassiopeia (ε Cassiopeiae) and Polaris have almost exactly the same SHA. The trailing star of the Big Dipper (Alkaid) is nearly opposite Polaris and ε Cassiopeiae. These three stars, ε Cassiopeiae, Polaris, and Alkaid, form a line through the N. Celestial Pole (approximately). When this line is horizontal, there is no correction. When it is vertical, the maximum correction of 56' applies. It should be added to the observed altitude if Alkaid is at the top, and subtracted if ε Cassiopeiae is at the top.2604_copy_copy For any other position, estimate the angle this line makes with the vertical, and multiply the maximum correction (56') by the factor from Table above, adding if Alkaid is higher than ε Cassiopeiae, and subtracting if it is lower. See Figure below. For more accurate results, the factor from Table above can be considered accurate to one additional decimal for the mid-value between those tabulated (except that 1.00 is correct for 0° and 0.00 for 90°). Other values can be found by interpolation.


The length of the day varies with latitude. Hence, latitude can be determined if the elapsed time between sunrise and sunset can be accurately observed. Correct the observed length of day by adding 1 minute for each 15' of longitude traveled toward the east and subtracting 1 minute for each 15' of longitude traveled toward the west. The latitude determined by length of day is the value for the time of meridian transit. Since meridian transit occurs approximately midway between sunrise and sunset, half the interval may be observed and doubled. If a sunrise and sunset table is not available, the length of daylight can be determined graphically using a diagram on the plane of the celestial meridian. A maneuvering board is useful for this purpose. This method cannot be used near the time of the equinoxes and is of little value near the equator. The Moon can be used if moonrise and moonset tables are available. However, with theMoon, the half-interval method is of insufficient accuracy, and allowance should be made for the longitude correction.

The declination of a body in zenith is equal to the latitude of the observer. If no means are available to measure altitude, the position of the zenith can be determined by holding a weighted string overhead