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taixyz1992



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Join date : 2010-10-10

PostSubject: United States Naval Observatory   Wed Nov 24, 2010 11:29 pm

The United States Naval Observatory (USNO) is one of the oldest scientific agencies in the United States, with a primary mission[1] to produce Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT)[2] for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Defense. Located in Northwest Washington, D.C., it is one of the few astronomical observatories located in an urban area; at the time of its construction, it was far from the light pollution generated by the (then-smaller) city center. Today, the observatory's primary observational work is done at the U.S. Navy's higher elevation United States Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station (NOFS) near Flagstaff, Arizona. USNO also has an "Alternate Master Clock" site in Colorado Springs, CO,[3] which with the "Master Clock",[4] provides precise time to the GPS satellite constellation run by the U.S. Air Force; and it performs radio VLBI-based positions of quasars with numerous global collaborators, in order to produce Earth Orientation parameters. Aside from its scientific mission, since 1974, the Observatory is the official residence of the Vice President of the United States.
Established by the order of the Secretary of the Navy John Branch on 6 December 1830 as the Depot of Charts and Instruments,[5] the Observatory rose from humble beginnings. Placed under the command of Lieutenant Louis M. Goldsborough, with an annual budget of $330, its primary function was the restoration, repair, and rating of navigational instruments. It was made into a national observatory in 1842 via a federal law and a Congressional appropriation of $25,000. Lieutenant James Melville Gilliss was put in charge of "obtaining the instruments needed and books." Source: [1] U. S. Navy's James Melville Gilliss Library.
The observatory's primary mission was to care for the United States Navy's marine chronometers, charts, and other navigational equipment. It calibrated ships' chronometers by timing the transit of stars across the meridian. Initially located downtown in Foggy Bottom (near the Lincoln Memorial), the observatory was moved to its present location in 1893,[6] atop Observatory Hill overlooking Massachusetts Avenue, amidst perfectly circular grounds.
The first superintendent was Navy Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury. Maury had the world's first vulcanized time ball, created to his specifications by Charles Goodyear for the U.S. Observatory. It was the first time ball in the United States, being placed into service in 1845, and the 12th in the world. Maury kept accurate time by the stars and planets. The time ball was dropped every day except Sunday precisely at the astronomically defined moment of Mean Solar Noon, enabling all ships and civilians to know the exact time. By the end of the American Civil War, the Observatory's clocks were linked via telegraph to ring the alarm bells in all of the Washington, D.C. firehouses three times a day, and by the early 1870s the Observatory's daily noon time signal was being distributed nationwide via the Western Union Telegraph Company. Time was also "sold" to the railroads and was used in conjunction with railroad chronometers to schedule American rail transport. Early in the 20th century, the Arlington Time Signal broadcast this service to wireless receivers.

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