Bright green laser to illuminate Meridian Line from Royal Observatory Greenwich

On 16 December, a spectacular bright green Meridian Line Laser was turned on at the Home of Time, the Royal Observatory Greenwich, illuminating the path of the Prime Meridian Line across the London sky.

The Millennia Vs laser, manufactured by Spectra Physics Lasers Ltd, represents the state-of-the-art in high power diode pumped lasers. It will be illuminated every evening and will be visible for ten miles on a clear night.

On 31 December 1999, the Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum site will play host to the British Gas Millennium Party, a live, sold-out, music event which will be televised worldwide to an audience of over one billion people. The Queen's House is the venue for the definitive Millennium exhibition The Story of Time, which opened on 1 December and runs until 24 September 2000.

Notes to Editors

Greenwich has been central to the history of time since the International Meridian Conference of 1884 voted to make it the location of the Prime Meridian of the World, Zero Longitude, and the basis of the International Time Zone System. The Prime Meridian was defined as 'The Centre of the Transit Instrument at the Observatory, Greenwich'. The Meridian Line Laser will be beamed across London from a position directly above this Transit Instrument, known as the Airy Transit Circle Telescope.

The 1884 conference established legally that every new day begins at mean midnight at the cross-hairs of the Airy Transit Circle telescope at the Observatory. Since time itself is officially measured from this point, the Observatory is a focal point for the forthcoming Millennium celebrations. No other place on the face of the earth can lay claim to such a unique association with the Millennium. The Times is sponsor of the Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.