THE Taunton-based United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has now taken over the responsibility for HM Nautical Almanac Office.

HMNAO was formerly part of the Royal Greenwich Observatory until it closed in 1998, when responsibility was transferred to the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils, based at Didcot, Oxfordshire.

The latest move will establish a secure future for HMNAO staff, products and services to support the MoD, particularly the Royal Navy and RAF, and will provide an opportunity to develop the commercial aspects of the astronomical area of excellence and expertise.

Roger Teale, UKHO Senior Product Manager, said: "The integration of the Almanac Products to the Admiralty range of Nautical Charts and Publications is a natural extension of the UKHO portfolio, which will now also include the Astronomical Almanacs as well as the Nautical Almanac products."

Dr Stephen Bell, head of HMNAO, said: "This is an exciting opportunity for the Almanac Office, which ends a period of uncertainty for the staff involved.

"We are looking forward to working with the UKHO in developing the existing and new Almanac products, especially digital versions, either as stand alone products, or in collaboration with others."

In the short term the three HMNAO staff will continue to work remotely from Didcot, but it is planned to move the editorship, records and staff to Taunton over the next two to three years.

For the story and a photo marking the deal, see the Somerset County Gazette on Thursday, April 27.