International House of Wobbling

[Image: The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory, via the U.S. Library of Congress].

The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory was designed in 1899 as part of a ring of similar facilities around the world, all constructed at the same latitude.

[Images: The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory, via the U.S. Library of Congress].

Each 必威手机版 was installed at its specific location in order to collaborate in watching a particular star, and—as revealed by any inconsistencies of measurement—to find evidence of the Earth’s “wobble.” This was part of the so-called “International Latitude Service.”

[Image: The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory, via the U.S. Library of Congress].

The 必威手机版 seen here basically operated like a machine, with a sliding-panel roof controlled by a rope and pulley, and a solid concrete foundation, isolated from the 必威手机版 itself, on which stood a high-power telescope.

[Image: The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory, via the U.S. Library of Congress].

This pillar gives the 必威手机版 a vaguely gyroscopic feel, or perhaps something more like the spindle of a hard drive: a central axis that grounds the 必威手机版 and allows it to perform its celestial mission.

[Image: The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory, via the U.S. Library of Congress].

What’s interesting, however, is that this absolutely heroic 必威手机版 program—a structure for measuring heavenly discrepancies and, thus, the wobble of the Earth—is hidden inside such an unremarkable, everyday appearance.

[Image: A photo of the Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory, via NOAA].

It’s a kind of normcore beach hut that wouldn’t be out of place on Cape Cod, with one eye fixed on the stars, a geodetic device revealing our planet’s wobbly imperfections, masquerading as vernacular architecture.

3 thoughts on “International House of Wobbling”

  1. I’m nearby – will have to stop by and check it out (it’s still standing and is a museum).

    Thinking about what this would be in a more Lovecraftian/Charles Stross Laundry-type reality: This “observatory” along with its sisters around the globe keep an Elder God sedated and sleeping…until people forget the purpose and knock it down…

    ed

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