What Does the U.S. Naval Observatory Do?


Quick Answer

The U.S. Naval Observatory is the official source of time for the Department of Defense and the entire United States. It produces astronomical publications and products and also houses one of the world's most comprehensive collections of astronomical literature.

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Full Answer

Local time and coordinated universal time are available by telephone through the Observatory, which also maintains the Network Time Protocol, the Internet time standard that allows client computers to synchronize with observatory time. Data about the rising and setting times of the sun and moon, phases, eclipses and seasons is managed by the Astronomical Applications Department, which produces almanacs, software and data for government, commercial and civilian use. The Astrometry Department produces star catalogs and Global Positioning System products and software, as well as reports on Earth's orientation as it pertains to daily, weekly and long-term planning.

The James M. Gilliss Library is one of the most respected scientific libraries in the United States. Library collections can be searched through its online catalog, URANIA. The library also offers a quick link to the Astrophysical Data System, which is maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The Observatory is part of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. Public tours of its Washington, D.C. and Flagstaff facilities are offered on a limited basis.

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