What is the difference between azimuth and elevation?

What is the difference between azimuth and altitude?


Satellish dish example via Martin John Baker of EuclideanSpace.com

The hardware inside your antenna is quite complex. The antenna must point in a certain direction, ascertained by a pinpoint in the sky where azimuth and elevation meet. When a satellite antenna moves to the left or right, that is the azimuth, or X-axis, plane of view. When the machine moves on the Y-axis, this is where elevation comes into play. Satellite TV antennas operate in much the same way that solar panels work, as far as their directional apparatus is concerned. There are two main directions in for the antenna to turn. Fully automatic antennas, like the KING Tailgater and KING Quest must decide whether to look left or right to find the best satellite signal. They also need to know whether to point higher or lower. These directions have varying degrees, as you might find on a protractor or a very detailed compass rose.

In our article explaining how satellite TV works, we looked at the method behind launching TV satellites into space. They are then locked into geosynchronous orbit so that satellite TV subscribers can watch their favorite shows whenever, wherever they are. Digging into the details of the mechanics behind satellite TV antennas, here is a little more information about the science behind the machine.

Manufacturers show you that pointing your antenna outside with a clear view of the southern sky is the best way to achieve the strongest signal. Wondering why you’re spending so much time ducking tree limbs and repositioning your antenna trying to find a clear line to a satellite?


Azimuth and elevation infographic via Sat-Sales.com

The way it works is the system rotates on a 360° axis to scan the sky and find the exact elevation and azimuth of the satellite with the strongest signal. The system double-checks itself by making a first pass through the sky, gathering data on different satellites, while keeping a log of RF signals, then it makes a second pass for RF peaks, and ultimately locks onto the strongest signal.

SatelliteSignals.net wrote this helpful tip for finding magnetic south without a compass: “If you are in the northern hemisphere then remember that the sun rises in the east, reaches its highest angle at due south and sets in the west. If you are in the southern hemisphere then remember that the sun rises in the east, reaches its highest angle at due north and sets in the west.” Of course, if the antenna is fully automatic, you don’t have to worry about pointing anything. Just make sure the antenna isn’t obscured from the southern direction.