Line of Position

Also found in: Acronyms.

line of position

[′līn əv pə′zish·ən]
A line indicating a series of possible positions of a craft, determined by observation or measurement. Also known as position line.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Line of Position


in navigation and geodesy, a line at all points of which a quantity measured by observations to determine the position of the observer on the earth’s surface has the same magnitude as at the observation point. Such quantities may be the distance between the reference point and the unknown point (the line of position is a circle); the elevation of a heavenly body at some point in time (also a circle); the azimuth of the direction from the reference point to the unknown point (a great circle course); or the azimuth of the direction from the unknown point to the reference point (a spherical curve of the fourth order). The intersection of two or more lines of position drawn on a map makes it possible to determine the location of the observer.

Line of Position


in navigation and geodesy, a line at all of whose points some quantity, measured to determine the observer’s position on the earth’s surface, has the same value as at the point of observation. Such quantities may be

(1) the distance r between a known (reference) point and the unknown position, in which case the line of position has the form of a circle of radius r circumscribed about the reference point;

(2) the zenith distance z or altitude h of a celestial body at some instant, in which case the line of position is also a circle circumscribed on the surface of the terrestrial globe with a spherical radius z = 90 — h about the celestial body’s geographical position, that is, the point at whose zenith the body was located at the time of observation;

(3) the azimuth A of the bearing from the reference point to the unknown position, in which case the line of position is an orthodromics, that is, a great circle circumscribed on the surface of the terrestrial globe and passing through the reference point in a direction corresponding to the azimuth A;

(4) the azimuth from the unknown position to the reference point, for example, a radio bearing from a ship or aircraft to a radio beacon, in which case the line of position is a fourth-order spherical curve on the earth’s surface, or an isoazimuth.

Lines of position are constructed on a geographic map from observational data and indicate the observer’s position. For complete determination of a position, it is necessary to construct at least two lines of position, whose intersection corresponds to the unknown location. Here, to ensure a reliable determination, both lines of position must intersect at an angle that is not too acute—at least 30°. If the lines of position have several, usually two, points of intersection, it is not difficult to select the necessary point, since the approximate location of the point of observation is usually known. For the same reason, observers often restrict themselves to constructing only a short segment near the approximate position of the observer rather than an entire line of position. This segment is replaced with the tangent to the line of position.

Lines of position are used extensively in navigation and aviation to determine the position of a ship or aircraft from the observed altitudes of two celestial bodies. This method was first published by the American sailor T. Sumner in 1843. Such celestial lines of position are called Sumner lines. A convenient, simple method of calculating and constructing these curved lines on a map was demonstrated in 1849 by the Russian sailor M. A. Akimov. Since the late 19th century, celestial lines of position have been calculated and constructed by an even more convenient method proposed by the French sailor M. St.-Hilaire in 1875.

A generalization of the line-of-position method was made by the Soviet scientist V. V. Kavraiskii. The application of lines of position to the equalization of geodetic measurements has been worked out in detail by the Soviet scientist N. G. Kell’.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

line of position (LOP)

line of position (LOP)
Aircraft flying from O to P obtains a bearing of 045° from A. Its position lies anywhere along the line AB.
In air navigation, a line along which an aircraft is known to be traveling and which may be utilized to establish a position or a fix. This line can be straight or curved, depending on the source of information: a true bearing from a mountain peak will be a straight line of positions; the distance from an object will be a circle of radius equal to that distance. Two or more LOPs are required to establish a fix.
line of sight
i. The straight line between two points. This line is in the plane of the great circle but does not follow the contour of the earth. Radar and some forms of radio waves are capable of being received in the line of sight.
ii. The straight line between the eye of an observer and the observed object or point. Also called an optical path.
iii. In radio, a direct propagation path that does not go below the radio horizon.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved