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Measuring Your Latitude

In the Northern Hemisphere, people can also use their inclinometers to figure out their latitude.

Most globes and maps of Earth are marked with latitude lines, imaginary lines that circle the globe, running parallel with the equator. Geographers use latitude to say how far north or south of the equator a place is.

On a clear night, people can figure out their latitude by using their inclinometers. First, they need to find the North Star (also known as Polaris). The easiest way to find the North Star is to find the Big Dipper. An arrow drawn through the two stars that form the end of the Big Dipper's bowl points to the North Star, which is at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. The North Star is always located between the Big Dipper and the constellation Cassiopeia. In the Northern Hemisphere, these constellations never set. Like the North Star, they are always in the sky on a clear night.

To figure out their latitude, people need to sight on the North Star with their inclinometers. The height of the North Star, in degrees, is their latitude. The North Pole is at 90 degrees north latitude. Someone standing at the North Pole would have to look straight up to see the North Star.

You might consider having people take their inclinometers home and measure the height of the North Star. Their answers should all be about the same. Check your latitude on a globe or a map to confirm their measurements. The latitude of San Francisco, California, is about 38 degrees north.


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Making Your Inclinometer
Using Your Inclinometer

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Measuring Your Latitude
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Tips for leaders: Making and Using Inclinometer

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