How Your GPS Receiver Tells You Which Satellites It Can

On startup, a GPS receiver starts looking for satellites and will display a page showing you its sky view all around the horizon. The outer ring is the horizon, the inner ring is at an elevation of 45 degrees and the centre represents the position in the sky vertically overhead (the zenith). The predicted positions of satellites are shown as empty circles which become coloured when a satisfactory satellite signal is received. The serial number of the satellite is shown in the circle. Alongside the diagrams are vertical bars representing the signal strength (in fact the signal-to-noise ratio or quality of the signal) and again each bar is numbered. In this way, you can see the number of satellites and the quality of the signals being received in order to form an idea of how good a fix you are likely to get. There's often a number giving an indication of the fix accuracy, more of which later.

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