India’s New Year’s Present: Atomic Clock at National Physical Laboratory (NPL) programmed to add an extra second to 2017

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A Sun clock, Wikimedia

Delhi, Jan 1, 2017: A ‘leap second’ was added to the Indian clock at 5:29.59 hours on 31st December’ 16, Sunday. The atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) was programmed to add an extra second to 2017 as it struck 23:59:59 last night. This was done to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation. in the fields of satellite navigation, astronomy and communication.

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Why:

D K Aswal, Director of National Physical Laboratory said, “The Earth and rotation around its own axis is not regular, as sometimes it speeds up and sometimes it slows down, due to various factors including earthquakes and moon’s gravitational forces that often results in ocean tides. As a result, astronomical time (UT1) gradually falls out of sync with atomic time (UTC), and as and when the difference between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, a leap second is added to UTC through atomic clocks worldwide.”

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How:

Adding the leap second to the Indian clock is done by the NPL under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (SCIR). To be in sync with the Indian Standard Time (IST) and the Earth’s rotational clock, the Indian clock need to be adjusted after the insertion of a leap second. Aswal said the Indian atomic clock was also synchronised with the atomic clock of International Bureau of Weight and Measure (BIPM), France.

After effects:

The adding up of an extra second will have an effect in the fields of satellite navigation, astronomy and communication. However, it won’t bring any difference to the daily life. Aswal said, “The leap second adjustment is not so relevant for normal everyday life. However, this shift is critical for applications requiring of time accuracies in the nanosecond, which are critical in the fields of astronomy, satellite navigation, communication networks.”

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Aswal added, ” Those utilising CSIR-NPL time dissemination services need not worry as they will receive the corrected time post the insertion of the leap second. Fun fact, 36 leap seconds have been added at intervals varying from six months to seven years since 1972. This will be the 37th year.”

– prepared by Shambhavi Sinha of NewsGram. Twitter:  @shambhavispeaks