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Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command U.S. Naval Observatory

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October 19, 2019

Home About History Instrument Shop Telescopes

About the Astrometry Department

The Astrometry Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory is responsible for the determination of fundamental positions, motions and distances of selected celestial objects. Observations made with special astronomical instruments are used to conduct investigations on characteristics of these objects and to determine their relative positions for the purpose of establishing reference frames in the sky. Advanced equipment and methods, such as the Full-sky Astrometric Mapping Explorer (FAME) spacecraft, large scale CCD measuring devices, speckle and radio interferometry, are being used or developed to extend the accuracy and brightness limits of the reference frames. The results of the observational programs are published in the Naval Observatory Publications and in refereed journals. The observational results are required by the Navy and the Department of Defense, the national and international astronomical communities, and by other governmental and private organizations. The Astrometry Department, a world-recognized leader in its field and the only organization within the United States performing this type of work, employs astrometric specialists who use highly sophisticated precision instrumentation and advanced data analysis tools in carrying out the work of the Department.

The Astrometry Department is composed of three divisions.

  • Cataloging and Requirements Division:
      Assembles observations into astrometric catalogs and combines observational catalogs into combined catalogs. Investigates the characteristics of catalogs. Determines DoD requirements.
  • Astrometric Satellite Division:
  • Fundamental Reference Frame Division:

The Department maintains telescopes in Washington, DC and Cerro Tololo, Chile. It operates the Starscan plate measuring machine. It also operates an instrument shop for the construction of new equipment, the development of new astronomical instrumentation and the maintenance of existing equipment. The instrument shop operates numerous numerically controlled machine tools and CAD/CAM systems.

Other astrometric programs are also done with the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer and other instruments at the Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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