USS Pharaoh

Headings and bearings

Navigating a Federation starship through the vast depths of space requires a comprehensive knowledge of interstellar navigational procedures. Flight Control officers and helmsmen undergo detailed training, but here is a quick guide to bearings and headings.


A bearing is the position of another object relative to your ship’s position, based on its azimuth (plane it’s on) and elevation angles:

The above image shows an object relative to the ship. In the top image the object is on the same plane as the ship, so the bearing is 301 mark 0. In the middle image the object is to the starboard of the ship and slightly elevated, so the bearing is 090 mark 037. In the bottom image the object is slightly elevated and behind the ship, hence it is at a bearing of 258 mark 010. The azimuth angle (plane on which the ship is travelling) is always given first.


Headings are measured relative to the center of the galaxy, again using the azimuth and elevation angles.

All 3 of the ships in the image below have an angle of 30 degrees relative to the center of the galaxy, so they are on a heading of 030.

Headings and bearings are always stated using three figures, e.g. a heading of 2 is listed as 002, a heading of 26 as 026 etc. The exception to this is 0, which is usually stated as just 0.

A more detailed look at headings and bearings can be found in the book “Star Trek the Next Generation technical manual” by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda, available through Boxtree books.