Get ready to say goodbye to 2008, a year in which we set things to rights by adding a leap day back in February. Oh, but we’re not done putting ourselves back on track, not quite yet. Before we leave, we have to add a leap second as well, and that happens on December 31st, depending on where you live. Leap seconds are used to keep the atomic clocks in sync with the Earth's rotation. The Earth, in case you hadn’t noticed (don’t feel bad, neither did I) is rotating more slowly these days. Because atomic clocks don’t slow down, adjustments must be made over time. Teensy-weensy (high squeaky voice) little adjustments. It all helps to keep clock-on-the-wall time in helpful agreement with solar time, or as one article I found put it:
Therefore, the leap second adjusts the clocks to ensure that civil time (used by clocks) is as close as possible to mean solar time (the mean sun’s hour angle).
Oh that mean old sun; why can’t it be civil like our earth clocks! Anyway, a necessary leap second will be added to the world’s atomic clocks at 23:59:60 at Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on this December 31st (sometimes leap seconds are added in June, too, although I didn’t really understand that one). This December adjustment will be the 24th leap second added since the first one ever was added in 1972, and the first leap second in three years. The additional second is actually counted as the 61st second of the last minute of the month, and it is written as 23:59:60 (or 11:59:60 PM in 12-hour format). Leap seconds are added at the exact same time all over the world, so the actual local time will depend on your time zone. Only regions in the UTC time zone will add the second just before midnight. For time zones east of UTC, the second will be added the next day (first day in January or July), for time zones west of UTC, the second will be added earlier on the same day as for UTC. If you’re really into the details, here’s a link to a handy CALCULATION chart:
And yes, there is a provision, on paper at least, for a “negative leap second” in case our planet should suddenly start to speed up again, but I think if it does that, we’ll probably have much bigger problems on our hand than matching clocks!
Finally, to all my fellow bloggers wherever you may live on our slowly spinning old world,
BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY HEALTHY AND SAFE NEW YEAR!
Atomic clock photo from Wikimedia Commons New Years hand from Shutterstock
The Cloud Messenger (Meghadūta) is a lyric poem by the respected Indian poet, Kālidāsa. The poem centers around a yaksa in exile. Longing for his beloved, waiting for him on a Himalayan mountain, he asks a cloud to take a message to her. The sights he tells the cloud it will see on its way make up most of the poem.
The idea of recording observations appeals to me. I thought The Cloud Messenger was the perfect title for a blog about the journey that we all make as we move through our days.
I'm a baby boomer who grew up dancing in the streets of Detroit during the classic Motown years, lived beside the Rocky Mountains for many years, now retired and living (and writing full time) in S. Ontario. I have one blog for rock 'n' roll oldies, and one for nature, poetry and life along the Lake.