“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Gaithersburg in Montgomery County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

The Chandler Wobble

Latitude Observatory Park

The Chandler Wobble Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 23, 2012
1. The Chandler Wobble Marker
Inscription. The Chandler Wobble is a small motion in the Earth's axis of rotation relative to the Earth's surface, which was discovered by American astronomer, Seth Carlo Chandler, Jr., in 1891. It is one of several wobbling motions that the Earth undergoes as it spins on its axis.

Swiss mathematician, Leonhard Euler (1707--1783), theorized that the Earth wobbled as it rotated on its poles resulting in a periodic variation in latitude at every point on Earth. But Euler could not prove his theory as the variations were too small for 18th century instruments to read.

In 1891 the International Geodetic Association (IGA) reacted to a claim by German Astronomer, Karl Friedrich Kustner, that he had detected variations in latitude at the Berlin Observatory and it launched an international observing program to confirm his results. The IGA organized simultaneous observations in Germany and Hawaii, on opposite sides of the globe. If the latitude of one increased, the latitude of the other should decrease.

In that same year American astronomer, Seth Carlo Chandler, confirmed the wobble using his own observations and that of others obtained from observatories around the world, to verify annual motion caused by seasonal relocation of Earth's mass each year, and a second having a 14 month cycle. Both terms were very small, only
The Chandler Wobble Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 15, 2012
2. The Chandler Wobble Marker
one or two tenths of a second of arc, explaining why they had been so difficult to detect. The Chandler Wobble amounts to about 20 feet on the Earth's surface and has a period of 433 days.

In 1899, to measure the Chandler Wobble or variation of latitude, the IGA established the International Latitude Service (ILS), which consisted of several dedicated observatories located along a common parallel of latitude. The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory was one of these stations. The observatories were equipped with identical Zenith Telescopes and observed sets of stars each night.

In 1962 the ILS was reorganized into the International Polar Motion Service (IOMS), with the addition of many new observatories scattered at different latitudes and equipped with several types of instruments. By 1980 other methods, particularly interferometry, satellite laser ranging and the Global Positioning System, were able to track changes in the orientation of Earth in space orders of magnitude better than the classical optical instruments used at the IPMS stations.
Erected 2011 by the City of Gaithersburg.
Location. 39° 8.193′ N, 77° 11.958′ W. Marker is in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in Montgomery County. Marker is on DeSellum Avenue. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 100 DeSellum Ave., Gaithersburg MD 20877, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Night at the Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory (within shouting distance of this marker); The Meridian Mark Pier and Geodetic Survey Monuments (within shouting distance of this marker); The Observatory (within shouting distance of this marker); History and Purpose of the Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); General Edward Braddock (approx. 0.3 miles away); DeSellum Family Cemetery (approx. 0.3 miles away); Second Lieutenant William J. Christman, III (approx. 0.4 miles away); Schwartz House / City Hall Built 1895 (approx. 0.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Gaithersburg.
Also see . . .  The Chandler Wobble. (Submitted on July 16, 2012, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. Geodesy
Categories. Science & Medicine
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 249 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   2. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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