Lost? Follow that satellite dish!

I read a great article on the BBC recently that was giving tips on finding your way in a city. Did you know that most UK satellite dishes (all belonging to the same provider) point roughly south east? They’re pointing at the same geostationary satellite, fixed at the same point over Earth. 

We’re all becoming increasingly reliant on having a GPS signal to know our location – whether it’s to find your nearest cinema/petrol station/restaurant on a mobile phone, following the soothing tones of your satnav, or plotting a route for your next countryside walk. But what happens when you lose your GPS signal, or your battery dies on the device you’re using? 

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Forgotten your compass? Use the sun to navigate

Jason Ingamells from Woodland Ways is our guest blogger today

Jason Ingamells from Woodland Ways is our guest blogger today

The sun’s path through the sky is completely predictable and if we become familiar with its movements it can be used to navigate quite accurately. So what is its path through the sky?  Ask most people and they will say it rises in the east, passes overhead at noon and sets in the west but there are several inaccuracies in this statement.

Here, Jason Ingamells of Woodland Ways, one of the UK’s leading Bushcraft experts, explains how you can navigate using the sun.

Because of the tilt of the earth and our latitude in this country the sun only ever rises exactly east and sets exactly west on the spring and autumn equinoxes.  On the summer solstice it actually rises almost north-east and sets north-west, whilst on the winter solstice it rises roughly south-east and sets south west.  The same factors (tilt and latitude) also mean the sun never actually passes directly overhead but is always to the south of us even in midsummer. There are also slight variations in the spin of the earth which mean that the sun isn’t always at its highest point at exactly noon as one would imagine, it can actually by up to about 15 minutes before or after noon when it’s at its highest. In addition in summer by moving the clocks forward by an hour things get even more complicated.

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Why 'space weather' is bad news for map making

What is ‘space weather’? Well this generally means solar flares – or as you might have heard on the news recently – coronal mass ejections to give them their full title!

Solar flares are related to sunspot activity which tends to run in 11 year cycles. We’re now entering the period where sunspot activity is increasing to a maximum for the current cycle. On Tuesday there was a big flare – the biggest for 4 years - whilst tonight those of you in Scotland might even get to see the Northern Lights as a result, so keep your eyes on the skies!

Solar flares

A solar flare

So what’s all this got to do with mapping?

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