Feeds

2008 goes into one-second overtime

Boffins insert another 'leap second'

The Power of One Infographic

As if the leap day in February wasn't enough stalling for time, scientists intend to delay the arrival of 2009 by one additional second.

Timekeepers will tack on a "leap second" to the world's clocks December 31, 2008 at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

The occasional chrono-adjustment is meant to keep the uniform time kept by atomic clocks since 1972 less than 0.9 seconds within the time-scale measured by the Earth's rotation around its axis.

The time discrepancy is due to the planet's spin gradually but surely slowing down, mostly due to tidal friction.

Solar timekeeping became somewhat of an antique when atomic clocks made their debut - measuring time on a more stable basis of the microwave signals electrons emit when they change energy levels. But old habits die hard, and mean solar time (UT1) is still used quite frequently to this day.

Under the International Systems of Units, an atomic time-scale second is defined as "equal to the duration of 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom."

Leap seconds essentially pause UTC so UT1 can catch up.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) is in charge of monitoring the difference between the time-scales, and occasionally adding or removing a second to UTC to keep the two consistent.

Since 1972, there have been 24 leap seconds added to the UTC time scale. Leap seconds are inserted in varying intervals from once every six months (15,778,463 seconds) to seven years (220,898,482 seconds).

The most recent leap second was inserted in December, 2005. We suggest you adjust your New Year's eve plans to compensate for the several million yoctoseconds you'll now have to spare. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.