Royal Greenwich Observatory

Also found in: Acronyms.

Royal Greenwich Observatory,

astronomical observatoryobservatory,
scientific facility especially equipped to detect and record naturally occurring scientific phenomena. Although geological and meteorological observatories exist, the term is generally applied to astronomical observatories.
..... Click the link for more information.
 established in 1675 by Charles II of England; formerly known as the Royal Observatory and located at Greenwich, it moved to Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex, in 1946. In the 1990 new headquarters at Cambridge were opened. Its equipment includes the 98-in. (248.9-cm) Isaac Newton reflecting telescope, 36-in. (91.4-cm) and 30-in. (76.2-cm) reflecting telescopes, 26-in. (66-cm) and 13-in. (33-cm) refracting telescopes, and an 8-in. (20.3-cm) reversible transit circle. The observatory is administratively responsible for the Radcliffe Observatory, Pretoria, South Africa, where there is a 74-in. (188-cm) reflector. The Royal Greenwich Observatory also includes the Nautical Almanac Office, which publishes the national navigational almanacs, and is responsible for the national time service, on which is based the worldwide system of time zones. The zero meridian, from which longitude is measured, passes through the observatory's former location at Greenwich. Other principal programs include measurement of the proper motions and radial velocities of stars, studies of the dynamics of the solar system and the Milky Way, and studies of the abundances of chemical elements in stars. From the appointment of John Flamsteed as its first director until 1972, the director of the observatory held the title of astronomer royal. Among the noted directors have been Flamsteed, Edmond Halley, James Bradley, Nevil Maskelyne, G. B. Airy, and E. Margaret Burbidge, who was the first director not to be astronomer royal.

Royal Greenwich Observatory

(RGO) The former principal astronomical institute of the UK, sited originally at Greenwich, London, where some of its buildings still stand. It was founded (as the Royal Observatory) in 1675 by King Charles II so that astronomical measurements could be made and the data tabulated for the primary purpose of increasing the accuracy with which positions at sea could be determined. John Flamsteed was appointed the observatory's first director, with the title Astronomer Royal, and took up his post in 1676. The Royal Observatory rapidly established itself as a center of accurate timekeeping and the place from which navigators could reckon their longitude. In 1767 it began publishing The Nautical Almanac , still an official source of astronomical and navigational information. In 1884, the meridian passing through the transit circle at the Royal Observatory was adopted internationally as the prime meridian, i.e. the meridian of zero longitude.

The increase in atmospheric and light pollution in the London area during the 19th and 20th centuries eventually necessitated the removal of the Royal Observatory to Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. The move was completed by 1954. The RGO was transferred from the Admiralty to the Science Research Council (later the Science and Engineering Research Council, SERC) in 1965. In addition to studying the positions and apparent motions of stars for the determination of longitude on Earth and in measuring time, the RGO's role widened to include astrophysics. This led to the construction of the 2.5-meter Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) at Herstmonceux, completed 1967. But the increasing light pollution and poor seeing that had driven the RGO from Greenwich again interfered with its activities in Sussex and resulted in the transfer of all observational work (and a modified INT) to La Palma in the Canary Islands. In 1988, the SERC relocated the RGO's UK-based administrative and research work to Cambridge, where it was accommodated by the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy, a department of the University of Cambridge set up in 1972 and devoted mainly to postgraduate teaching and research. The move to Cambridge was completed in 1990, and over the next eight years the RGO and the institute shared facilities and collaborated on some research programs.

In 1994, the SERC was replaced by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) as the state-funded body responsible for the RGO and the UK's other astronomical research facilities. In 1998, having decided to rationalize its funding activities, the PPARC closed the RGO down after 323 years of operation. Most of the RGO's functions were taken over by the United Kingdom Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) in Edinburgh. The Nautical Almanac Office was transferred to Rutherford-Appleton Laboratories at Didcot, Oxfordshire. The original Royal Observatory site in Greenwich, now in the care of the UK's National Maritime Museum, is home to a museum and planetarium that attract large numbers of visitors each year. A public information service on astronomical matters is also centered there, and an amateur astronomy club, the Flamsteed Astronomy Society (founded 1999), holds regular meetings and observing sessions in the observatory's grounds. Refurbishment and expansion of the site began in 2004.

Royal Greenwich Observatory


a scientific research institution in Great Britain. Founded in 1675 in the London suburb of Greenwich, primarily to determine the time and to calculate the coordinates of the stars, the sun. and the moon needed for navigation. The meridian that passes through the transit instrument of the Royal Greenwich Observatory (the prime meridian) was adopted in 1884 by international agreement as the starting point in determining longitudes and calculating zone time.

The proximity of Greenwich to London hampered observations; in the 1950’s the observatory was moved 70 km southeast to the 15th century castle of Herstmonceux. where the administrative offices, laboratories, and library are found. The instruments, including 28-inch and 26-inch refractor telescopes and a new 98-inch reflector telescope, are set up nearby. The prime meridian is still calculated at the former site. The Royal Greenwich Observatory has been issuing the annual astronomical Nautical Almanac since 1767. The director of the observatory bears the title of astronomer royal.


Maunder. E. W. The Royal Greenwich Observatory. London, 1900.


References in periodicals archive ?
The National Prediction service, as it was known, began life at the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) and was set up to basically provide satellite predictions for British observers--professional and amateur, but it only lasted at RGO for three hectic months, which set the pattern for the future.
The abbreviation 'RGO' in the references below refers to the Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives at Cambridge University Library, UK.
The Royal Greenwich Observatory said: "There seems to be no reason why any country can't declare itself to be in whatever time zone it likes.
However, Dr Robin Catchpole at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Cambridge believes that Kiribati's decision is legitimate: "In practice, people operate on the basis of local time, and my view is that since there is absolutely no international treaty on the International Date Line -- despite its name -- then people are free to do what they choose.
1, however, is the uninhabited Balleny Islands in Antarctica, according to the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
Hotel rooms have been booked for more than two years - but experts at the Royal Greenwich Observatory now confirm that the deserted South Foreland, just 23 miles away, will be first to see the light.
A drastic voltage decrease initially was observed, says Floor van Leeuwen, a project manager at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Cambridge, England.
He died the following July and was replaced by Harold Spencer Jones, who had been Chief Assistant at the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
In 1907 the famous Polish-born British novelist Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) wrote The Secret Agent, a spy story about a terrorist plot to blow up the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
The Herstmonceux Observatory near Hailsham in East Sussex was built to house the Royal Greenwich Observatory when it left London in 1957.
Adelberger and Melinda Kellogg of Caltech, Mark Dickinson of Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Mauro Giavalisco of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, and Max Pettini of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Cambridge, England, also detail some of the results in the Jan.
Boffins have agreed the work of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Cambridge should be moved north of the border.

Full browser ?