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Prior to the introduction of electronic means of navigation the only way to fix an aircraft's position at night was by taking star sights using a sextant in the same manner as that used by marine navigators for hundreds of years on board ships. To do this requires a 360-degree view of the horizon and the astrodome was devised to allow an uninterrupted view of the sky from horizon to horizon.
Astrodomes were prominent on many Royal Air Force (RAF) and Commonwealth operated multi-engined aircraft of the Second World War, and on foreign aircraft ordered by them for their use, such as the Liberator and Dakota, as a considerable part of the RAF's operations and other flying were carried out at night.
- astrodome, definition at Webster's Online Dictionary
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