An instrument with a graduated arc of 60° and a sighting mechanism, used for measuring the angular distances between objects and especially for taking altitudes in navigation.
- Later, celestial navigation using sextants and fairly accurate clocks enabled absolute positioning, but the sailors had to refer back to dead reckoning on days with poor weather conditions.
- Selecting five of the hardiest men, he took a single boat on a journey of 800 miles, across a raging sea, with a sextant the only navigation tool, to the island of South Georgia.
- Having begun my navigation career with star shots on sextants and theodolites and sun-compasses during the day, I appreciated the technical brilliance of the GPS (the US Global Positioning System).
Late 16th century (denoting the sixth part of a circle): from Latin sextans, sextant- 'sixth part', from sextus 'sixth'.
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