Welcome to the NavList Message Boards.


A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding

Compose Your Message

Add Images & Files
    Name or NavList Code:
    Re: Artificial horizon
    From: Gary LaPook
    Date: 2005 Feb 21, 23:46 -0800
    I always have used a little bowl filled with mercury which I filter through cloth first to remove the dross.
    When done, I pour it back in a small bottle for storage. It is much better than any other liquid and you can even shoot dim stars.

    Gary LaPook

    George Huxtable wrote:
    Alex raised these questions about artificial horizons-
    This question was discussed a lot in October 2004,
    and I want to add something.
    Recently I made many experiments with Davis art horizon
    sold by Celestaire.
    I tried various combination of Caro syrup and oil,
    Caro syrup alone, and oil alone.
    (Caro syrup was recommended on this list).
    The best "combination"
    seems to be pure vegetable oil, without any syrup.
    I really don't understand why this sirup was proposed.
    (To make the bottom darker? What for? And if this is
    indeed useful, why not to paint the bottom of the horizon
    vessel black with ordinary paint?
    The syrup hardens when the weather is cold (it was 23 F last
    weekend), always has impurities and causes double reflection
    unless the oil layes is extremally thin. Such thin layer of
    oil is usually not enough to smoothen the surface of sirup.
    I Have not tried the dark (mahine) oil yet, but why it is
    considered useful to have dark substance in general?
    P.S. I DO understand why Bauer and others recommend sextant
    mirrors painted black on the back side (to prevent second
    reflection from that back side) but with liquid filled art horizon
    with plastic botom it is different: there is no reflection
    >from the bottom.
    Dealing first with his question-"why it is considered useful to have dark
    substance in general?": the reason is to avoid reflections from the bottom
    of the pan, as Alex surmised when he wrote-
    "To make the bottom darker? What for? And if this is indeed useful, why not
    to paint the bottom of the horizon vessel black with ordinary paint?".
    The problem is this. At present, Alex is seeing a Winter Sun, at rather low
    altitude, and with the Sun at that angle, there's plenty of reflection from
    the top surface of a liquid. Things get worse as the Sun gets higher in the
    sky, though an ordinary sextant limits such altitudes to 60 degrees. A
    larger fraction of the light penetrates the top surface, and if the liquid
    is clear (such as pure water) most passes through it to reflect off the
    bottom of the pan, and provide another, and perhaps brighter, view of the
    Sun. No precautions are taken to align (or deliberately misalign) the plane
    of the pan bottom with the horizontal, so that the lower reflection might
    be close enough to the wanted surface reflection to confuse the
    That's why the other (Norwegian?) type of artificial horizon, a piece of
    flat glass with levelling screws and a sensitive spirit-level, is always
    made with black glass, so there's no need to question the parallelism of
    the two surfaces.
    How is this reflection from the pan bottom to be avoided? Alex gives one
    answer; to give the bottom of the pan a non-reflecting surface. "Ordinary
    black paint", however, has quite a shine to it, and even matt-black paint
    tends to show a bit of mirror-reflection. Best might be to line the bottom
    of the pan with a material that is made up entirely of angled facets, none
    being horizontal, ribbed like the surface of a coarse file. Perhaps a piece
    of glued-down coarse emery paper would do the trick. Maybe a
    retro-reflective surface would be the answer, to send most of the light
    which strikes the bottom back in the direction it came from. These are
    suggestions, but I've never tried them in practice.
    Another approach might be to tilt the pan deliberately away from the
    horizontal, so that any shine from the botton gives an image that's well
    away from the desired reflection.
    Anyway, it's to avoid such problems that the Australian explorer Augustus
    Gregory used black tea for his superb sextant observations; and then drank
    Alex says- "but with liquid filled art horizon with plastic botom it is
    different: there is no reflection from the bottom."
    I don't know the Davis model art. horizon but perhaps some precautions have
    been taken in its design to make the bottom non-reflective at any angle of
    incident light. That would indeed be sensible. In which case, there's no
    need at all for the liquid to be blackened.
    It strikes me that a combination of two non-mixing liquids ("caro syrup and
    oil") in a shallow pan would be a bad idea, unless the pan was deep enough
    to ensure that the interface was always well below the surface. And might
    it not introduce another problem, of reflection at the interface between
    The arguments for using filtered used engine oil are-
    It reflects well from a nice shiny surface
    It transmits no light.
    It's viscous enough to that the wind doesn't (much) ruffle its surface, so
    usually no cloche is required above it.
    It's designed to keep its viscosity reasonably constant over a very wide
    range of temperatures.
    It's free.
    On the other hand, it's filthy stuff to use or dispose of.
    There's no doubt that the best reflecting fluid is Mercury, which reflects
    nearly all the light from a beautiful shiny surface, and even allows stars
    to be readily observed. The snag is that it tends to freeze in Arctic
    weather: does anyone know its freezing point? Does it's surface become dull
    as it nears its freezing point?
    Perhaps there are other possible reflecting liquids which remain
    sufficiently fluid at such Arctic temperatures, which can reach extremes of
    -45 deg. Celsius. Any suggestions?
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    Browse Files

    Drop Files


    What is NavList?

    Get a NavList ID Code

    (please, no nicknames or handles)
    Do you want to receive all group messages by email?
    Yes No

    A NavList ID Code guarantees your identity in NavList posts and allows faster posting of messages.

    Retrieve a NavList ID Code

    Enter the email address associated with your NavList messages. Your NavList code will be emailed to you immediately.

    Email Settings

    NavList ID Code:

    Custom Index

    Start date: (yyyymm dd)
    End date: (yyyymm dd)

    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site