Science: Deserted Meridian

The earth's astronomical navel* was about to shift its position. Britain's Royal Observatory was preparing for its first permanent move in 271 years. Left behind in Greenwich (now part of London) would be 1) the original building designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and 2) the "prime meridian of longitude," which passes through the observatory grounds. The "Meridian of Greenwich" could not be moved; every modern map in the world had been drawn with it as a base line.

In 1675, Charles II, the "Merry Monarch," tore himself away from his mistresses long enough to consider the stars. They must be, he...

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