More Evidence for Noon as Start of Day?

February 3, 2014 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

by Milky Way Maid

Dave over at keeps harping on using noon as the start of the day in the pre-railroad era. He tends to run a chart both for the stated time, which assumes that the legal began at midnight, and a chart for 12 hours later which assumes that the day began at noon since it was a verifiable event.

I have just run across something that tends to support noon as a verifiable event, a verifiable astronomical event — because ships for example would reset their clocks to an authoritative source.

The fact is that beginning in 1845, at the request of the Secretary of the Navy, the Navy Observatory dropped a ball precisely at noon. This ball was installed at the telescope dome, and was apparently visible even to ships in the Potomac River. The ships would set their clocks before putting out to sea.

This system apparently stayed in force until the adoption of Ephemeris time in 1956, and later the adoption of Dynamical time in 1984 (a measure of time based on the motion of the celestial bodies).

For the original source please dial your browser to the Navy website at



Entry filed under: Astronomy Notes on the Web, Coolest Web Links. Tags: , , , , , .

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