Will Last A Second Longer, a Leap Second Added

Darnell ReidDec 31, 2016

Even financial systems and stock markets, which have become increasingly reliant on smaller and smaller fragments of time, can be affected by adding a single second. This upcoming leap second will mark the 27th time the United Kingdom timescale has been tweaked in this way, with the last occurrence taking place in June 2015.

Image Credit: SplitShire / PixabayWhy leap second? So gird your loins and hold your loved ones close during that extra second if you're superstitious. This leap second will come at the end of 2016.

The Earth's rotation is slowing slightly with time, caused in part by tidal effects, with the Moon's gravity creating friction between the oceans and the turning Earth.

An extra second is therefore occasionally added to regulate atomic and astronomical time. The UTC is computed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris.

"After the insertion of the leap second in December, the cumulative difference between UTC and TAI will be 37 seconds", they continued, noting that the leap seconds are actually "indications of the accumulated difference in time between the two systems". The working of a Cesium based Atomic Clock propounded by How Stuff Works states that the Cesium 133 oscillates when kept under Crystal oscillator so that it can resonate. Well, astronomical timekeeping has always relied on the length of an Earth day as a standard.


Without periodically adding this extra second, UTC could eventually end up being really off-kilter, seriously impacting countries who base their days around the time scale.

As midnight approaches, the official atomic clocks that keep Universal Co-ordinated Time will mark the time as 23h 59m 59s, followed by the leap second 23h 59m 60s. During this leap second, Google will "smear" time to provide a seamless transition. However, the invention of atomic clocks set a much more precise "atomic" timescale and a second that is independent of Earth's rotation.

What should you do with your clocks?

The idea to add a second - in addition to a full day every four years - was first constructed in 1972 to account for the exacting specificity that the IERS demands. This fine time gap was caught on the atomic clock which is the most accurate clock on Earth till date.

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