Fun Fact Friday! Fact 24

Posted by Peter Barshtak on October 12, 2012.

 How to use your regular watch as a compass !!!

An analog watch can be used to locate north and south. The Sun appears to move in the sky over a 24 hour period while the hour hand of a 12-hour clock face takes twelve hours to complete one rotation. In the northern hemisphere, if the watch is rotated so that the hour hand points toward the Sun, the point halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock will indicate south. For this method to work in the southern hemisphere, the 12 is pointed toward the Sun and the point halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock will indicate north. During daylight saving time, the same method can be employed using 1 o'clock instead of 12.
The method depends on the assumption that the azimuth of the Sun changes at a constant rate during a day. Strictly, this is true only when the observer is at one of the Earth's poles. Seen from moderately high latitudes, say more than 50 degrees North or South, the Sun's azimuth changes at a rate that is sufficiently constant to allow this method to be useful. Seen from lower latitudes, the Sun's azimuth changes much more rapidly around noon than at other times of day. In an extreme case, when the Sun passes directly overhead at noon, its azimuth abruptly changes by 180 degrees, from due East to due West. Obviously, this completely invalidates the use of a watch as a compass. There are also relatively minor inaccuracies due to the difference between local time and zone time, and due to the equation of time. 


  1. Berk January 04, 2013

    You make things so clear. Thanks for tkaing the time!

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