Give Me a Second

If you’ve made this request at some point in your life the International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service (IERS) is granting your request.

At 6:59:60 PM on December 31, 2008 the IERS will add another second to time.

The second is the base unit for modern time keeping. The second was previously defined based on the Earth’s rotation, but because modern atomic clocks are more accurate than the Earth’s rotation the definition was changed in 1967. A second is currently defined as being the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods/oscillations of radiation from a Cesium-133 atom at the ground state.

The Earth is rotating slower and slower over time, while the atomic clocks are not slowing down. On one average day the difference is around 0.002 seconds, which means around 1 second in 500 days. In order to synchronize the atomic clocks with the Earth’s observed rotation, the atomic clocks are occasionally instructed to add an extra second – the leap second. Leap seconds are inserted so that the difference between the UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and UT1 (mean solar time – observed Earth rotation) is kept below 0.9 seconds.

The leap second is added in the end of June or December. It is also possible to have a negative leap second, where one second is removed, in a case where the Earth is rotating faster, but such a negative second has never been used, and is rather unlikely to be used in the future.

I’ve always wondered what it is like to be God. I thought controlling time was a power only administered by God, I guess not according to the IERS.

Well at least we have an extra second to enjoy the monumental year of 2008.

Happy New Years.

Additional References & Inspiration Source:

International Earth Rotation & Reference Systems Service – (Official Website)

International Atomic Time – (Official Website)

Time & Date “December 2008 Leap Second


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