The start of next year will be delayed by circumstances beyond everyone’s control. New Year will arrive a second late when time across the globe is adjusted to account for the changes in the Earth’s rotation.
A ‘Leap Second’ will be added onto the final minute of 2008 because the planet is gradually slowing down as it spins on its axis. The tweak will help correct the time-lag which shows up on ultra-accurate atomic clocks.
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.
It is the 24th time since 1972 that the adjustment has been made by the Paris based International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service at intervals varying from six months to seven years. The last was in 2005.
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