On December 31 midnight, you will have an extra second to usher in the New Year, because a "Leap Second" will be added to 2008 to let a lagging Earth catch up to super-accurate clocks.
According to a report in Live Science, by international agreement, the world's timekeepers, in order to keep their official atomic clocks in step with the world's irregular but gradually slowing rotation, have decreed that a Leap Second be inserted between 2008 and 2009.
AdvertisementThe extra second, ordered by the world's nominal timekeeper, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, will be marked officially at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, December 31, in Greenwich, England.
So, at precisely 23:59:60 at Greenwich, England, on New Year's Eve, there will be a one-second void before the onset of midnight and the start of the New Year.
Wednesday will see the 24th Leap Second that has been needed since the practice was initiated in 1972, and will be the first in three years.
Around the world, to satisfy the requirements of navigators, communication organizations and scientific groups, about 200 atomic clocks in over 50 national laboratories worldwide will be adjusted at local times corresponding to midnight to local times at Greenwich.
The extra second is needed to keep the world's clocks in time with the rotation of the planet.
Time measured by the rotation of the Earth is not uniform when compared to time kept by atomic clocks. Today's atomic clocks have an inaccuracy of less than one second in 200 million years.
But, for various reasons, our planet rotates on its axis at irregular rates, and on average has been falling behind atomic time at a rate of about two milliseconds per day.
It now trails the official clock by about six-tenths of a second.
As a result of this difference, atomic clocks can get out of sync with the Earth and periodically have to be adjusted.
Since it's the atomic clocks that are used to set all other clocks, a Leap Second has to be added from time to time to make up the difference.
So, adding the extra second between 23:59:59 on Dec. 31 and midnight on Jan. 1 will put Mother Earth about four-tenths of a second ahead of the clock, giving her a bit of a head start as 2009 begins.