Azimuth Circle

An azimuth circle, also known as an azimuth compass or azimuth dial, is a navigational instrument used to measure the azimuth or bearing of a celestial body or a terrestrial landmark. It is primarily used in land surveying, astronomy, and navigation. Here’s a brief explanation of what an azimuth circle is and how it works:


Azimuth circles are used to determine the horizontal direction or azimuth of a target relative to an observer’s position. This direction is measured in degrees from the observer’s location to the target, with 0 degrees typically indicating true north.


The main components of an azimuth circle typically include a circular plate or disk with a graduated scale in degrees (ranging from 0 to 360 degrees) around its edge.

An observer typically sights through a sighting mechanism, such as a telescope or a simple sight, mounted at the center of the circle. Some azimuth circles also include leveling mechanisms to ensure that the instrument is held perfectly horizontally.


To use an azimuth circle, the observer points the instrument toward the target or celestial body of interest. The observer then reads the degree markings on the circle where the sighting mechanism aligns with the target. This reading indicates the azimuth or bearing of the target.

  • In astronomy, azimuth circles are used to measure the azimuth of celestial objects, such as stars, planets, and the Sun. Astronomers use this information to determine a celestial body’s position in the sky.
  • In land surveying, azimuth circles are used to measure the horizontal angles between landmarks or to determine the direction from one survey point to another.
  • In navigation, azimuth circles can be used to find the direction to a specific point on the Earth’s surface, which is particularly useful for determining a ship’s position at sea.

Azimuth circles come in various sizes and levels of precision, depending on their intended use. They are essential tools for accurately determining directions and bearings in a wide range of fields, contributing to accurate navigation, land mapping, and celestial observation.

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