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Archive for May 14th, 2013

Last Friday, the USNO opened for a family and friends evening. Technically being a military base as well as the residence of the VP, not just anybody can waltz onto the grounds at any time. With the right effort, you can get in, but a few times a year they host events for people we know to come visit. This is fantastic, as the observatory is a unique, historic, and fascinating place.

Bart took advantage of the opportunity and drove down after work to meet me here. I showed him my digs and lab space in my building, then we went around to tours of other buildings on the campus.

If you look at a map of DC, just north of Georgetown you will see a perfect circle right in the middle of town. This is the Naval Observatory, which moved to its current location from Foggy Bottom in the 1890s. At the time, it was situated on a hill far outside of town, never to be plagued by poor astronomical observing conditions such as excess light (ha ha). Over 100 years later, we consider it practically downtown, though some observation is still routinely done here.

It is still a beautiful, park-like oasis in the city; it’s so park-like that you even routinely see herds of deer milling about. You now get great views of the city from the top of the original telescope dome.

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You can see the Capitol and Washington Monument to the left and right of the flag.

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National Cathedral, just a couple of blocks north

The original building is famed for its historic and picturesque library featuring a startling collection of rare astronomical books (Galileo, Brahe, Newton, Boyle, and many more) and time and navigation paraphernalia. Bart took this wonderful panoramic shot of the room.

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Panoramic of the Library

We also toured more areas of the campus, including clocks contributing to official USNO time and the original 12-inch refractor telescope.

After showing Bart around, we met up with my friend whose office is next to mine and her friends and walked over to Georgetown for dinner together. An evening in the hip part of town with actual human beings? I just almost sound like a cool kid. Almost.

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