Did you miss the “Leap Second”?

Leap_second

An extra second, or “leap” second, was added at midnight on June 30th. Why? The Earth is taking longer to complete one full turn, a day, or technically, a solar day. The solar day is gradually getting longer because Earth’s rotation is slowing down.

Scientists know exactly how long it takes Earth to rotate because they have been making that measurement for decades using an extremely precise technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). VLBI measurements are made daily by an international network of stations that team up to conduct observations at the same time and correlate the results.

From VLBI, scientists have learned that Earth is not the most reliable timekeeper. The planet’s rotation is slowing down overall because of tidal forces between Earth and the moon. Roughly every 100 years, the day gets about 1.4 milliseconds, or 1.4 thousandths of a second, longer. But if you add up that small discrepancy every day for years and years, it can make a very big difference.

Normally, the clock would move from 23:59:59 to 00:00:00 the next day. Instead, at 23:59:59 on June 30, UTC will move to 23:59:60, and then to 00:00:00 on July 1. In practice, this means that clocks in many systems will be turned off for one second.

Credit: NASA

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 18,131 other followers