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July 1, 2006
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Jack Townshend, the current special projects coordinator of the USGS Geo-magnetism Group, is shown here inside the Fredericksburg Observatory in August 1957. Townshend served as the emcee for the center's 50th anniversary event.


USGS and NOAA Center Marks 50 Years

On May 23, 1956, a research center and observatory opened at Corbin, Va., to continuously monitor the Earth's magnetic field. It was charged by Congress "to enhance geomagnetic field studies and monitoring programs in support of scientific, general public, basic and national security needs of the United States."

Fifty years later on May 23, 2006, officials from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who jointly run the site, commemorated the golden anniversary of Corbin's Fredericksburg Geomagnetic Observatory and its role in the science of accurate positioning.

The observatory is part of a network of 14 USGS magnetic observatories in the U.S.-seven in the contiguous United States; four in Alaska; and one each in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam. About 200 stations worldwide are operated by partner agencies to observe variations in the Earth's magnetic field in time and space, to precisely calibrate instruments, and to monitor hazards to communication, navigation and power grids. The Corbin site is also equipped as a USGS Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) station that can measure and record even very small earthquakes anywhere in the world, and operates one of NOAA's GPS stations.

As communications, space exploration, navigation and power grids have developed through the years, so too has the function of these observatories. They now include modeling and charting for navigation purposes, monitoring of long-term changes in the Earth's interior, and observing space weather hazards such as solar flares.

Several significant milestones have resulted from activities at the site over the past 50 years, including: establishing U.S. and international magnetic standards, calibrating NASA satellite magnetometers and magnetometers for the United States and agencies worldwide, inventing the electronic distance measuring (EDM) instrument, developing photo triangulation measurements using images of satellites against the night sky, and establishing the Global Positioning Antenna Phase Center that calibrates GPS antennas globally.

Moving forward, NOAA will establish the National Ocean Service National Geodetic Survey Calibration and Training Center on the site to serve its state geodetic advisory program. This program supports the official national spatial reference system from which all official land boundary surveys are made. For more information, visit the USGS Geomagnetism Program website at: http://geomag.usgs.gov.

BLM open house attendees listened to an overview of the National Integrated Land System (NILS).

BLM Hosts Technology Open Houses

On May 2-4, 2006, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a series of open houses at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colo., to teach the public and members of other agencies how to utilize online BLM applications to their fullest potential. The BLM's Land & Resources Project Office, which develops and maintains many of the land and mineral applications and websites that the public and other government agencies use, hosted the five open houses for more than 200 people.

At the open houses, BLM employees discussed and demonstrated their agency's programs and offerings, including the National Integrated Land System (NILS), the Legacy Rehost 2000 (LR2000) system and the GeoCommunicator website.

In the BLM computer lab, attendees received hands-on practice with the GeoCommunicator and LR2000 applications.

NILS is a joint project between the BLM and the USDA Forest Service in partnership with states, counties and private industry to provide business solutions for the management of cadastral records and land parcel information in a GIS environment. After listening to an overview on NILS, attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions and have a hands-on experience with the applications in the BLM's computer lab, as well as receive individual demonstrations.

The BLM's LR2000 system, available at www.blm.gov/lr2000, provides reports for land and mineral use authorization records and mining claim data. LR2000 records are converted into the NILS geodatabase, enabling the public to spatially access those records through the GeoCommunicator website at www.geocommunicator.gov. With the GeoCommunicator, users are able to dynamically access and map BLM land and mineral records, including those for oil and gas leases and agreements, mining claims, geothermal applications, rangeland and rights of way.

Because of the success of these open houses, the BLM is planning a road show to hold additional open houses and demonstrations at various BLM state and field offices later this year.

NGS Enhances OPUS with Graphic Option

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) enhanced its Online Positioning User Service (OPUS, available at www.ngs.noaa.gov/OPUS) with an additional graphic option showing recent solutions. OPUS is an NGS service that processes user-submitted GPS data with respect to three CORS sites to determine an accurate position, which is then E-mailed back to the user.

Now users are able to view their solutions submitted to OPUS by individual states or regions. Previously, users could only view solution triangles on a map of the entire United States. Now, when users visit the "Recent Solutions" page, they can select their regions on the map or from the drop-down list. The "Recent Solutions" map features detailed state maps showing all OPUS solutions for the current day, displaying graphically where in the United States OPUS has been run for the current day, and if the submitter's data set has run. The maps are updated every 20 minutes using Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) software. In addition to the yellow triangle showing the latest solution, new black triangles show the other four most recent solutions. The "Recent Solutions" page continues to display red triangles, showing the locations of all solutions for the current day.

Launch Date Set for GPS IIR-M2 Satellite

The launch date for the second modernized GPS satellite has been set for Sept. 14, 2006, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The GPS IIR-M2 satellite will be launched by a Boeing Delta 2 rocket. The first modernized GPS satellite was successfully launched on Sept. 26, 2005.

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