The Greenwich Meridian Line Has Moved

It seems like the steel Greenwich Meridian Line is not the line which divides East and West anymore. All the visitors to the Royal Observatory who thought that they were standing on the center of the world time, have to go back to move 334 feet to the east and take that selfie again.

What Happened?

The Greenwich Meridian Line Has Moved

The Prime Meridian, which connects the North Pole to the South Pole, is not where it is indicated, but 334 feet to the east, next to a trash bin. Scientists have explained what caused this confusion and they say the astronomers who calculated the original line did not take into account distortions caused by gravity when aiming their telescopes at the so-called ‘clock stars’. Ken Siedelmann, an astronomer at the University of Virginia says that a miscalculation like that was expected:

“With the advances in technology, the change in the Prime Meridian Line was inevitable. Perhaps a new marker should be installed in the Greenwich Park for the new Prime Meridian.”

The Royal Observatory announced an entry fee of £10 (or $15) for tourists who want to straddle Greenwich Meridian Line and the new Meridian Line is going to be marked in the park “to update the story of the Greenwich Meridian into the 21st Century”, as Dr. Marek Kukula told The Independent. “Is that going to be the final one? Who knows what refinements may take place in the future? But the great thing about meridian lines is that it doesn’t really matter, as long as everybody is using the same one.”, he continued.

The Greenwich Meridian Line is not the only one since there are two other meridian lines at Greenwich. In 1721, the English astronomer Edmond Halley defined the Halley meridian and the Bradley meridian of 1750 is still used as the standard definition of zero longitude in modern Ordnance Survey maps.

Some Historical Data About The Greenwich Meridian

Sir George Biddel, the 7th Astronomer Royal, was the one who set the Prime Meridian in 1884, tracking with his telescopes the movement of clock stars. These stars, which never set and never rise, transit the meridian twice a day and they help us set longitude and -of course- time. Astronomers, though, failed to calculate the gravity that caused subtle changes in the telescopes alignment, which gave a wrong reading. In 1884, the Greenwich Meridian became the Prime Meridian of the World, after the International Meridian Conference in Washington, where Greenwich won the prize of Longitude 0º.


Ain’t got time to snooze? Check out SensorWake: