The year 2016 is going to last longer than expected after scientists announced the addition of a New Year’s Eve “leap second”.
The extra second on December 31 is apparently required to ensure time stays in sync with the planet’s rotation.
Scientists at the Paris-based International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) work out when leap seconds are necessary by measuring so-called atomic seconds.
These are precise ticks based on the consistent frequency of microwaves released by certain atoms.
However, the earth’s rotation is marginally less consistent than atomic seconds due to the gravitational pull of the sun and moon, among other factors.
If the earth’s spin is more than 0.9 seconds too fast or too slow, the IERS declares a leap second in order to adjust. There have been 26 such seconds since 1972, while a second has never been removed.
eap seconds can be a danger to computer systems, which is why the IERS gives six months’ notice and only places them at the end of December or June.
There have been calls to stop adding leap seconds and instead let the earth’s rotation gradually diverge from the time. If this were the case, the planet would be two to three minutes out of sync with the sun by 2100, and about 30 minutes by 2700, according to New Scientist
Evening Standard UK