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Amazing Gaithersburg MD - Astronomy, Earth Wobble Measures and Aerospace Jobs

Updated on September 18, 2015

Gaithersburg Train Station

A historic landmark that is maintained as a working station.
A historic landmark that is maintained as a working station.

Travel and Industries

Travel and Tourism comprise a large share of the local economy in the Greater Washington DC Area, but other industries also contribute. The Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia Metro Area maintains a healthy local economy via the industries of Government, IT, Technologies, Aerospace, Defense, Healthcare, and others. Many of Maryland's Montgomery County's newest jobs are high-paying, high technology jobs and unemployment countywide has been lower than the natonal average.

Rockville and Gaithersburg are growing Maryland suburbs of Washington DC that have been awarded the distinction of Best Places to Live in America, on a yearly Top 100 list.

Civil War sites are preserved in the are for historical interest.
Civil War sites are preserved in the are for historical interest. | Source

A Tavern, a Tree, an Observatory, and an Asian Legend

While Rockville MD was built around a famous tavern, nearby Gaithersburg was built around a legendary tree. Today, Gaithersburg is the 25th Best Place to Live in America, according to Money Magazine online.

A settler named Ben Gaither the house in 1802 where a famous oak tree stood. The oak tree is a forgotten symbol of the United States and several of these trees, such as the Charter Oak in the east have been central to history and love of country. Gaithersburg’s was the Forest Oak, which lived for 300 years until 1997. Gaithersburg incorporated after the Civil War, in 1878, with the Forest Oak standing by since the 1600s, watching civilizations, developments, wars, and famous historical figures pass by.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (The B & O) arrived as it did to Rockville in late 1800s. The B & O transported a seasonal community to Gaithersburg each summer from Washington, DC as the concept of vacations expanded after the bloodshed of the Civil War and the rise of Reconstruction and business overall, aided by the rail lines. The B & O stations in Rockville and Gaithersburg are both National Historic Landmarks.

The Gaithersburg B & O Station is a museum that is the centerpiece of the Olde Town Gaithersburg District, with a Freight House, a History Park, a gift shop, and separate permanent and traveling displays of railroad cars and engines. An annual Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne Street Festival is held not far form this complex and includes several square blocks of music, concessions, demonstrations, entertainment, and family activities.

The Gaithersburg City Hall today resembles a large house, because it is a house. Once the home of Edward P. Schwartz, it stood among a well-known peony garden that grew over 400 varieties of peonies from around the world on a few acres of land before WWI. It was the major tourist attraction besides the Forest Oak. President Woodrow Wilson once visited to admire the expanse of flowers. The home was refurbished into city offices in the middle of the 20th Century.

The National Institute of Standards, established in 2901

National Institute of Standards and Technology 'NIST' (HeadQuarter) in Gaithersburg (MD). View of South Pond
National Institute of Standards and Technology 'NIST' (HeadQuarter) in Gaithersburg (MD). View of South Pond

NIS Coordinates: 39° 08′ 29.3″ N, 77° 13′ 03.96″ W

Some Interesting NIS History

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A sixth-generation atomic clock. Testing automobile performance.SWAC Computer and its cathod-ray-tube memory in the background.Standards Eastern Automatic Computer
A sixth-generation atomic clock.
A sixth-generation atomic clock. | Source
Testing automobile performance.
Testing automobile performance.
SWAC Computer and its cathod-ray-tube memory in the background.
SWAC Computer and its cathod-ray-tube memory in the background.
Standards Eastern Automatic Computer
Standards Eastern Automatic Computer

International Standards found in Gaithersburg

In mid-1961, the National Bureau of Standards (National Institute of Standards and Technology) began construction of its first Gaithersburg building, which can be seen in the photograph above. This building and its activities drew an unexpected level of growth to the community.

Today, the facility houses certain standard weights and measures for scientific research, including a standard meter, and a standard kilogram as foundation gold-standard measurements. Because of the standard measures house in the city, Gaithersburg is sometimes called the "Science Capital of the United States."

Scientific firms have followed the agency of standards to Gaithersburg to do business sine the early 1960s. This city is now a major high-tech region for the 21st century. Although agricultural activities began to phase out, several working farms and historic communities were preserved to maintain the culture and traditions of Colonial, Civil War, and Victorian Era Maryland.

Additional measurement standards are connected with the Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory (GLO), discussed below.

Map Location of NIS

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A markerNational Institute of Standards and Technology -
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), 100 Bureau Dr, Gaithersburg, MD 20899, USA
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B marker39° 08′ 29.3″ N, 77° 13′ 03.96″ W -
Diamond Square Shopping Center, 2 Bureau Drive, Gaithersburg, MD 20878, USA
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Location of NIS Headquarters via map coordinates.

How Much Does the Earth Wobble?

Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory
Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory

Earth Wobble Measurements - GLO National Historic Landmarks

The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory is a National Historic Landmark, one of 6 observatories constructed worldwide in 1899 for the purpose of studying how much the Earth wobbles around its north-south axis. The original extensive data was collected until 1932, but the GLO continued in use for another 50 years to 1982. The original data is accurate enough that it is still in use by government agencies. The observatory is only 13 feet square, wooden, with louver-gabled roof, a small porch on one side, and a shed attached on another.

The gabled roof divides along its two sections on wheels to expose that area that once contained a telescope. Decorative 5-pointed stars are used at points on the outside and inside of the structure. The telescope has been placed in storage in Virginia for preservation. Just to the south of the building, the Meridian Mark Pier (the azimuth marker), contains a 4-foot high green pagoda that was used to align the telescope.

Five additional monuments mark exact longitudes and latitudes, the elevation above sea level, and the direction of magnetic north. One of the monuments is still actively used in GPS satellite-tracking activity.

North Poles

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The North Poles in 2008.This axis wobbles oscillates between 22.1° and 24.5° yearly.
The North Poles in 2008.
The North Poles in 2008. | Source
This axis wobbles oscillates between 22.1° and 24.5° yearly.
This axis wobbles oscillates between 22.1° and 24.5° yearly. | Source

Astronomical History and Space Programs

A historic document produced in Gaithersburg and Washington DC is the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (USCGS) Superintendent's Report for 1898-99. Well over 100 years old, the information in the document is still highly relevant to 21st century needs..

The 1899 document contains a written agreement among members of the International Geodetic Association in the industrializing 19th century to construct six observatories in a circle in the northern hemisphere from which to measure the variations in latitude resulting from a tilt and wobble of the Earth (caused by planetary shape) along the north-south axis. Additional causes are posited to be rocket launches and global warming, although not yet validated.

The historic agreement created a program that originally lasted for 15 years from 1899 – 1914 and was named the International Polar Motion Service.

The six cooperating observatories in the program were built and opened in 1899, each as near as possible to the latitude of 39’ 08” (39 degrees, 08 minutes) North Latitude. Observers at these points around globe work from the following locations:

  • Gaithersburg, Maryland; a suburb of the US national capital, Washington DC.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Ukiah, California
  • Mizusawa, Japan
  • Charjui, Russian Turkestan; moved to Samarkand in 1919.
  • Carloforte, Sardinia, Italy

Lack of funds closed the Cincinnati and Gaithersburg stations in 1915, but Gaithersburg reopened in 1932.

Charjui was cut off in World War I, but the telescope continued to record information until 1919. After WWI, the USSR built a replacement for it in Samarkand and continued measurements from there. Five stations recorded information from 1899 until 1914 or as late as 1982, when computer technology subsumed the functions of the observatories.

The Japanese station led a project of star study among the original 6 stations under the astronomer, Dr. Kimura. Twelve groups of 6 pairs of stars, 144 total, were included and two groups of stars per night were observed at each observatory station within a specific schedule of dates, times, and durations. All was coordinated by Japan. The irregular daily motion of the Earth's axis was previously thought to be minuscule and related latitude variations were recorded to 1914.

The telescope data delivered by the original 6 observatories is a massive database and still useful to 21st century scientists. The historic measurements help to determine polar motion and the size, shape, and other physical properties of the Earth. They help to forecast climate changes, impending climactic disasters, and smaller earthquakes and similar events. The data also help international space programs to execute precise navigational patterns required for various orbiting satellites.

The combined telescopes’ information database is relevant and useful, beginning from the 19th century, now in its third century of use. It has been applied to determine that the wobble in the Earth’s north-south axis causes it to draw its own large circle once every 26,000 years.

In addition, the Pole Star changes because of this wobble and other factors. While the North Star is Polaris now, it will be Vega in constellation Lyra in the year 15,010 AD.

Preserving their Historic National Landmark, the City of Gaithersburg is restoring and maintaining Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory (GLO) as a Science Education Center on the site of the nearby caretaker's house. The students of Gaithersburg schools can enjoy both the observatory and related hands-on scientific exploration at a site that is astronomically important, nearby our nation’s capital, and fascinating as part of the early history of the US Space Program.

Earth Wobble - An Asian Legend Comes True

The Earth wobbles as a result of a potbelly sort of phenomenon at the bulging equator, caused by planetary rotation and the gravitational forces of Sol and Luna. The Earth is gradually tipping over, which is interesting, because it supports an Asian legend -- While a blue dragon above the North Pole holds the Earth in place and a white tiger under the South Pole keeps it from falling, the two icons slowly change places and identities to make progress in a new phase of life. The legend is that the process takes 500 years in each exchange of places; in actuality, the number is closer to 500,000. How did the Asians know, thousands of years ago?

Gaithersburg Observatories and Histories

Gaithersburg Market Area

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A markerGaithersburg MD -
Gaithersburg, MD, USA
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B markerBethesda MD -
Bethesda, MD, USA
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C markerFrederick MD -
Frederick, MD, USA
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The Arts in Gaithersburg

As in Rockville, the arts, music, and literature have found considerable support in Gaithersburg. Annually, Gaithersburg hosts and/or maintains the following facilities and events:

  • Art in Public Places
  • Arts Barn
  • Backyard Concerts and Movies
  • Bark in the Park Canine Festival
  • City-Sponsored Farmers Markets and Indoor Flea Markets
  • Gaithersburg Book Festival
  • Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne Street Festival - in conjunction with Gaithersburg Community Museum in the B & O Station
  • Independence Day Celebration Festivasl
  • Morning Concerts for Kids and other concerts at City Hall Pavilion
  • Oktoberfest at the Historic Kentlands Mansion
  • Parades: Labor Day, St. Patrick's Day Parade, 4th of July
  • Winter Lights Festival
  • Young Artist Award

Rockville - Gaithersburg Suburbs of Washington DC

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A markerRockville MD -
Rockville, MD, USA
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B markerGaithersburg MD -
Gaithersburg, MD, USA
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C markerWashington DC -
Washington, DC, USA
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Maryland Jobs Surge 2012 - 2016

The two employment trending graphs display show increases in job listings form January to August 2010, approximately 20% for Rockville and 30% for Gaithersburg. October 2010 job listings were about 200,000 or more vacancies available for either city. The number of opening declined for a year during 2012, but began to increase once more in January 2012 (see charts below).

Even though situated closer to DC, Rockville has immediate access to approximately 11,000 additional jobs than does Gaithersburg, since it is closer to DC. Gaithersburg (#25 Best Place to Live in America) is located nearer other fast-growing suburbs that are creating additional new jobs in the 2010s. A large proportion of the job openings for Gaithersburg and Rockville are located in DC and Arlington, Herndon, McLean, Reston, and particularly for Gaithersburg - Alexandria VA.

Recovery Ups and Downs: 148,000 Jobs in May 2011; 181,000+ Jobs Advertised in January 2015


Top 10 Job Advertisements.

  1. IT Engineers and Administrators
  2. Project Managers
  3. Physical and Occupational Therapists
  4. Software Engineers
  5. Registered Nurses (RNs)
  6. IT Systems and Network Engineers
  7. Java Developers
  8. Administrative Assistants
  9. Occupational Therapists
  10. Program Managers

Additional High Demand Jobs

  • Test Engineers
  • Business Analysts
  • HVAC Technicians
  • Web Developers

Top Hiring Employers

  1. Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC)
  2. General Dynamics
  3. SAIC
  4. Lockheed Martin - NASA Commercial Crew, space manufacturing and other.
  5. Deloitte
  6. CACI International
  7. ManTech International
  8. Usajobs - Major source for Federal Jobs.
  9. Northrop Grumman - Defense and space manufacturing.
  10. Holy Cross Hospital
  11. University of Maryland
  12. Cybercoders - IT and Engineering


Employment Expansion Predicted to 2018

Federal Employment Forecasts to 2018

  • The jobs forecast for the Rockville-Gaitherburg's area include these expected increase throughout the decade 2008 - 2018:
  1. Registered Nurses (RNs) - Current high demand job.
  2. Waitstaff: Waiters and Waitresses
  3. Personal Care and Service Workers
  4. Nursing/Psychiatric/Home Health Aides
  5. Financial Clerks
  6. Computer Systems Analysts - Current high demand job.
  7. Computer Software Engineers - Current high demand job.
  8. Carpenters
  9. Office and Administrative Support
  10. Customer Service Representatives
  11. Construction Managers
  12. Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts - Current high demand job.
  13. Health Technologists and Technicians
  14. Accountants and Auditors
  15. Sales Representatives for Services

Johns Hopkins University, Then and Now

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Plans for the school and campus in 1910A sky view of the current complex.
Plans for the school and campus in 1910
Plans for the school and campus in 1910 | Source
A sky view of the current complex.
A sky view of the current complex. | Source

Local Colleges, Universities, and Tech Schools

  • Aesthetics Institute of Cosmetology in Gaithersburg
  • Columbia Union College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Lacademie De Cuisine in Gaithersburg MD
  • Long and Foster Institute of Real Estate
  • Montgomery College Rockville Campus
  • Strayer University
  • University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute Center of Marine Studies
  • University of Phoenix in Rockville
  • Universities at Shady Grove


© 2010 Patty Inglish


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      I learned so much again from your description of the area. Thank you. You are doing a great job.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      This was enjoyable to write, because the astronomy component is so interesting. Thanks for reading!

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

      Great news! We need to explore our options for employment. Careers in science (astronomy, etc.) are very much open and earning potential is great. Voted/rated.

    • daviddwarren22 profile image

      daviddwarren22 6 years ago

      Yes,astronomy is always interesting.

    Click to Rate This Article