2016 may have been too long for Hollywood’s unhappy celebrities, but the nation will add an additional second before the calendar ticks over to 2017.
This year was already a leap year, the year that comes every four years where February gets a 29th day to make up for the irregularities in the earth’s orbit around our sun. But the timing of the earth’s orbit is still not perfectly matched to the calendar, so this year, we also get a “leap second.”
The United States is one of the countries using the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) system to govern the calendar year, so we will have to wait one more second to pop those champagne corks as we welcome 2017, wire service AFP noted.
“This extra second, or leap second, makes it possible to align astronomical time, which is irregular and determined by Earth’s rotation, with UTC which is extremely stable and has been determined by atomic clocks since 1967,” the Paris Observatory said in a recently released statement.
The observatory also noted that the earth’s orbit is sometimes faster and sometimes slower from year to year and does not progress like some perfectly timed computer program. So, these occasional adjustments are necessary to keep clocks aligned with the earths real time orbit.
The “leap second” was first introduced in 1972 in order to align our measurement of time to the earth’s real, astronomical time.
“Leap seconds are added in order to keep the difference between UTC and astronomical time (UT1) to less than 0.9 seconds,” the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology explains.
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