Established in 1955 a few miles west of Flagstaff, Arizona, the Flagstaff station is the US Naval Observatory's dark-sky site for optical and near-infrared astronomy. There are presently two USNO sites in the Flagstaff area: this station (NOFS) and the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI), located some 15 miles south of the city.
The United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station (NOFS) is an astronomical observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona, USA. It is the national dark-sky observing facility under the United States Naval Observatory (USNO). NOFS and USNO combine as the Celestial Reference Frame manager for the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
The Flagstaff Station is a command which was established by USNO (due to a century of eventually untenable light encroachment in Washington, D.C.) at a site five miles west of Flagstaff, Arizona in 1955, and has positions for primarily operational scientists (astronomers and astrophysicists), optical and mechanical engineers, and support staff.
NOFS science supports every aspect of positional astronomy to some level, providing national support and beyond. Work at NOFS covers the gamut of astrometry and astrophysics in order to facilitate its production of accurate/precise astronomical catalogs. Also, owing to the celestial dynamics (and relativistic effects) of the huge number of such moving objects across their own treks through space, the time expanse required to pin down each set of celestial locations and motions for a perhaps billion-star catalog, can be quite long. Multiple observations of each object may themselves take weeks, months or years, by themselves. This, multiplied by the large number of cataloged objects that must then be reduced for use, and which must be analyzed after observation for a very careful statistical understanding of all catalog errors, forces the rigorous production of most extremely precise and faint astrometric catalogs to take many years, sometimes decades, to complete.
The mission of the U.S. Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station, is:
To make, analyze, and interpret such astrometric and photometric dark sky observations as are required to fulfill the mission of the U.S. Naval Observatory.
To conduct a research program to improve the observational methods and the accuracy of astronomical data required by the Navy and other components of the Department of Defense.To perform such other functions or tasks as may be directed by higher authority.