Getting down to the millimeter

Ny-Ålesund is in contact with celestial bodies up to 12 billion light years away. The new Earth observatory will make navigation and climate research even more precise.

The 'foundation stone' is laid down and Jan Tore Sanner (Conservatives) is attaching the traditional brass plate from the ceremony.
The "foundation stone" is laid down and Jan Tore Sanner (Conservatives) is attaching the traditional brass plate from the ceremony.
Publisert

"This is a day I have been waiting seven years for. I am so getting tears in my eyes!"

Per Erik Opseth, the director of the Norwegian Mapping Authority's Geodesy Division, is excited. It is a few minutes on this Saturday before the foundation stone for the new Earth observatory in Svalbard is laid down. The ceremony marks the start of a project that is seen as highly important for most people on Earth. Beginning in 2018, measurements of the Earth's surface will be even more precise thanks to the project in Ny-Ålesund.
 
'Strengthen our position'

The wind is brisk, but the rain has thankfully given up when the bus stops at Brandalslaguna a few kilometers outside Ny-Ålesund. The day before, Kings Bay AS completed construction of the road out to where the new Earth observatory will be, and at the site construction equipment and employees with Veidekke Arctic are waiting. After a brief orientation, the drilling machine starts, and Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Jan Tore Sanner (H) takes over the control panel. The pole begins to move and goes half a meter further into the ground. The "foundation stone" is laid down and a brass plate with text is screwed in.

"The fact that we are now building in Ny-Ålesund is helping to strengthen our position in the northern areas, and it will be an important tool in climate research and the monitoring of climate change," Sanner says. "A new station is essential for climate research and those who need precise data."
  
Hub in Svalbard
Climate research relies on accurate data to determine changes with certainty, but the measurements are not precise unless they are known with basically 100 percent certainty. In addition to the Earth's own motion, the globe continuously changes form (see fact box). Moreover, Earth's tectonic plates are moving all the time. Svalbard, for example, is moving two centimeters a year. Measurements must consider all this to be accurate and that requires extremely precise reference points.

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