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Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory
“This small framed structure played a key role in the scientific investigation of the Earth's rotation. In 1898, the International Geodetic Association established a network of observatories to measure the wobble of the planet on its axis by plotting the locations of specific stars. This hilltop in Gaithersburg was chosen together with sites in California, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union. All five lay along the same latitude (39° 8' N). The American Stations were supervised by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. The observatory's roof was designed to part in the middle on two sets of tracks to expose the reflecting telescope inside to the night sky. Its slatted exterior walls stabilize the inside air to limit the effects of the temperatures on the accuracy of the telescope. The building's white paint minimizes heat retention that creates air turbulence around the telescope at night, distorting the stars. Knowledge gained from the observations recorded here nightly until 1982 assisted scientists in the study of the Earth's geophysical make-up and aided spacecraft orbiting the planet and navigating the universe.”
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