Archive for January, 2009

I’ve been experimenting again with the best way to measure degrees in the sky. Although I have found that people have trouble with the fist method, it may still be the most reliable with a few of caveats and modifications.

First, when you are measuring more than 10 degrees, stack one fist on top of the other – trying to do large measurements, such as 30 degrees or more with a single fist is, I believe, one of the causes of inaccuracies.

Second, if you know where the North Star is, calibrate your fist by making sure the North Star roughly matches your latitude. By roughly, I mean within five degrees or less.The North Star for me is almost 42 degrees high. I’m perfect happy to count that as four fists.

Third – don’t wear gloves, it will throw things off.

Fourth, make a “degree stick.”  Any stick about two o three feet long will do. A wooden dowell would be fine, but no need to get fancy. Measure the width of your fist across the knuckles, including your thumb. (Mine comes in at 4-inches.) Now put pieces of masking tape – or white tape if you have it, every four inches.  Try to cover 40 degrees this way – 60 would be better.  Now you take a measurement by holding the stick out at arm’s length – great in the winter time because you can wear gloves.  Does it work? mine does. At least it puts me in the right ball park 😉

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