Observatories

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In nature we are given the first meridian of latitude along the equator, where the sun moves from East to West directly overhead. We can then understand points north and south of this line, allowing us to set latitude’s across the planet until they meet an end at the south or north poles. Longitude however, is a man-made construct and has roots as far back as ancient Greek mapmakers. In essence, it is an arbitrary set of lines that were standardized as a result of debate by influential powers of the 19th century. Since this time, it has been used as an unvarying tool for charts, maps and time keeping throughout the world. Prior to the implementation of a uniform meridian, many countries had a considerable need to calculate longitude, specifically while at sea. Having a consistent fixed system of longitude for maps and time keeping would decrease the dangers for sailors lacking an accurate point of reference on the water. Prior to 17th century, observatories were without telescopes, with Tycho Brahe’s Uraniborg (Castle of the Heavens) from the 1570’s being considered the greatest of the pre-telescopic. Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the universe, the birth of the Academies in France and the Royal Society in England and other advances in scientific theory set the stage for significant advancements in the science of astronomy. Sea-faring nations began to note the distinct advantages of astronomy in providing an accurate mapping of the stars. As a result of this and the evolution of astronomical theory, the 17th century saw the building of two important observatories, in the cities of Paris and Greenwich, outside of London. These observatories would play a role in the establishment of a prime meridian for the world, and... ... middle of paper ... ...June 22, 2010, from Port Cities: http://www.portcities.org.uk/london/server/show/ConNarrative.132/chapterId/2688/Greenwich-and-the-story-of-time.html Observatory. (2008) Science. Retrieved June 24 2010, from HowStuffWorks.com: http://science.howstuffworks.com/observatory-info.htm Palmer, Alan. The Prime Meridian. (2010) Greenwich Guide. Retrieved June 24, 2010 from: http://www.greenwich-guide.org.uk/meridian.htm Paris Observatory. History. Retrieved June 24, 2010, from Serving History: http://www.servinghistory.com/topics/Paris_Observatory::sub::History Royal Greenwich Observatory. (2008) Columbia Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 22, 2010 from Answers.com: http://www.answers.com/topic/royal-greenwich-observatory Royal Observatory – Greenwich. (2007) Infobritain. Retrieved June 22, 2010, from: http://www.infobritain.co.uk/royal_observatory_greenwich.htm

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