The Time Galleries at the Royal Greenwich Observatory
On Monday 13th February, 2006, my wife and I attended the opening of the newly refurbished Time Gallery at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Visitors are treated to an upgraded experience comprising interactive projection displays, videos explaining the concept of longitude and latitude and a plethora of different time pieces and watches on display. Centre stage is Harrison's four famous clocks. Over forty years, Harrison worked on resolving the problem of longitude which he eventually resolved with his meticulously engineered mechanical clocks which lead to the ability to navigate safely and accurately at sea for the first time.
The event was attended by Lord Sterling, one of the trustees and the head of the Millenium Lottery Commission who both gave very enthusiastic speeches with regards to the opening of the new gallery. Also speaking at the event was Peter Snow, the well known TV presenter famous for his loud ties and enthusiastic leaps and dives around virtual TV sets showing statistical analysis of election results. Peter has been following the progress of the new galleries and the development of the new Greenwich Planetarium over the last twelve months or more.
It looked like they had upgraded the green laser at the meridian line. It appeared VERY bright and was clearly visible way out in to the distance. The green laser is meant to be visible out to about 15 miles. Also open to view was the new Horology Centre. We went along to it and watched a young engineer carefully dismantle a pendulum that had been calibrated so that the metal parts making up the various components of the pendulum shaft can expanded and contracted according to the barometric pressure and temperature in-order to keep accurate time.
In the basement gallery we received an in-depth and lengthy description of how the original valve clock worked that produced the famous 6 pips on BBC Radio. The machine on display was the original dating back many decades, with all values fully working. Watching those values glow and whir was mesmerizing and listening to the engineer who restored it to working order and understanding the inner workings was very exciting.
The new planetarium is not open yet and won't be till 2007, however later this year the new space galleries are due to open. For anyone interested in the history of time, longitude and latitude the new Time Galleries are well worth a visit.