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Collections Spotlight – A Rude Star Finder

Every week we shine a light on a different object from our collections that you may not have seen before.  This week we have a Rude Star Finder and Identifier published by the Hydrographic Office, Washington D.C in March 1942 under the authority of The Secretary of The Navy. The original version of it was invented by Gilbert Rude who was an officer in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.  It consists of a white plastic planisphere with the northern sky on one side and the southern on the other that shows all the stars in the American and the British Air Almanacs. It also contains 6 clear plastic altitude-azimuth templates for use at different latitudes up to 85° north and south and also an instruction card all contained in a leatherette container.

This star finder was designed for aeronautical use and it was used for navigation purposes and was a very important piece of equipment especially when flying over enemy territory. It was used to its full potential in unfamiliar territory during the Pacific War in the 1940’s. It was used by US Navy aircraft crew during WW2 and continued to be used up until the 1960’s. It cost $4 to buy when it first came out.

During periods of overcast weather the navigator would go out on to the bridge wing to scan the sky with a sextant. The hope being, that the clouds would break long enough to get a shot of a single star but the star’s identity was always difficult to establish.  This is where one of the uses of the star finder comes into play. An azimuth (bearing) of the star would be taken at the instant of observation. When the correct template is oriented properly on the star base, the name of the star can be read at the intersection of the azimuth and altitude lines on the grid. The navigator would inform the aircraft pilot of their bearings making it easier to know which direction to take for the next mission, be that attack or a safe return to base.

Donor: K.G Kelly

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