The Theodolite

The Theodolite

          A theodolite is a precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. Theodolites are mainly used for surveying applications, and have been adapted for specialized purposes in fields like meteorology and rocket launch technology. A modern theodolite consists of a movable telescope mounted within two perpendicular axes — the horizontal or trunnion axis, and the vertical axis. When the telescope is pointed at a target object, the angle of each of these axes can be measured with great precision, typically to seconds of arc.

          Transit refers to a specialized type of theodolite developed in the early 19th century. It featured a telescope that could "flip over" ("transit the scope") to allow easy back-sighting and doubling of angles for error reduction. Some transit instruments were capable of reading angles directly to thirty seconds. In the middle of the 20th century, "transit" came to refer to a simple form of theodolite with less precision, lacking features such as scale magnification and micrometers. Although precise electronic theodolites have become widespread tools, the transit still finds use as a lightweight tool on construction sites. Furthermore, the Brunton Pocket Transit, commonly employed for field measurements by geologists and archaeologists, has been in continuous use since 1894. Some types of transits do not measure vertical angles.

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