Starpath Celestial Navigation
Course Overview


    Estimated to be about 30 - 60 hours of your time, depending on how much optional material you wish to cover. You work at your own pace on your own schedule. See extended discussion of this in the Frequently Asked Questions.


    You can start at any time, and submit quizzes and discussion any time of day or night. The lesson quizzes must be submitted sequentially. You have one year to complete the course, or request an extension if needed.

Course description

    This course covers all aspects of practical celestial navigation, starting from the very basics and ending with all you need to safely and efficiently navigate an open ocean passage.

    This course is also an ideal refresher for those who have been away from the topic for some time, or just want more practice and perhaps learn other approaches. Questions and comments from experienced navigators are always a welcome and beneficial addition to the discussion forums.

    Most people doing the course intend to use the knowledge for actual navigation at sea, but we often have people learning cel nav without that specific goal. It is a fascinating subject in its own right. Amateur astronomers, school teachers, kayakers, and others just interested in thenight sky and this subject have taken part. It is a very rewarding pastime.


How the course works

    Please read the general description of How the Courses work. Those notes apply to all courses. You can sign up for a course and start work at any time. The celestial course builds progressively on previous lessons. If you have questions about the course structure itself that are not answered here, please send an email to starpath.


    There are no prerequisites for the Celestial Course. We do basic plotting using parallel rulers and dividers, but that is also explained in the course. There are no math requirements other than addition and subtraction of angles and time, and we review that in detail in Lesson 1. You do not need a sextant to do the course, as explained in the FAQ.

Student Objectives

  • Find position at sea from timed sextant sights of any celestial body
  • Carry out a running fix from the sun
  • Evaluate the accuracy of a celestial fix
  • Incorporate celestial fixes with DR plotting to navigate an ocean crossing
  • Understand the principles enough to apply them to basic emergency navigation
  • Identify any celestial body in the sky based on its approximate height and bearing
  • Know how to check the compass with sun or stars at sea without landmarks
  • See the Lessons Plan for other topics covered.


    This course will prepare you for the certification tests offered from most organizations. Please see our Notes on Certification.