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One more second of life in 2008


December 11, 2008

You'll experience one more second of life in 2008. On December 31, 2008, at 2:59:29 Alaska Standard Time, the U.S. Naval Observatory will add a "leap second" to the world's clocks by inserting it at the U.S. Naval Observatory's Master Clock Facility in Washington, D.C. The leap second will show up on the Internet and on your GPS, as a change in Coordinated Universal Time.

People at the Naval Observatory have the responsibility of adjusting the nation's official atomic clocks, devices that keep time using an oscillation between a nucleus of an atom and surrounding electrons.

The rotation of the Earth is slowing down ever so slightly, due to the moon's gravitational pull on Earth's oceans; that "tidal braking" requires the insertion of a leap second every few years.

What will you do with that extra time?


This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community.
Ned Rozell [] is a science writer at the institute.


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