Panel allows ‘leap second’ to keep clocks aligned with Earth’s rotation

January 23, 2012
Timekeepers allow clocks to leap ahead

The leap second lives on — for another three years, at least.

Added to official world clocks on 24 occasions since 1972, this skip in time keeps clocks synchronized to the Earth’s rotation. Without it, the apparent time — say, when the sun is at high noon — would drift earlier and earlier, disagreeing with the time shown on official atomic clocks. The ever-so-slight slowing of the Earth’s rotation is to blame.

At an international meeting in Geneva last week, disagreement flared on whether to kill the timely tradition. In the end, the International Telecommunication Union, a part of the United Nations, put off a decision until its next meeting, in 2015, saying the issue needed more study. And so at 7:59:59 p.m. Eastern time on June 30, the U.S. Naval Observatory, one of the nation’s timekeepers, will skip a second to 8:00:00 p.m.

Don’t forget to take a second and reset your watch.

Brian Vastag

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read National