Time and time

The dimension of the physical universe that orders the sequence of events at a given place; also, a designated instant in this sequence, such as the time of day, technically known as an epoch, or sometimes as an instant.


Time measurement consists of counting the repetitions of any recurring phenomenon and possibly subdividing the interval between repetitions. Two aspects to be considered in the measurement of time are frequency, or the rate at which the recurring phenomena occur, and epoch, or the designation to be applied to each instant.
A determination of time is equivalent to the establishment of an epoch or the correction that should be applied to the reading of a clock at a specified epoch. A time interval may be measured as the duration between two known epochs or by counting from an arbitrary starting point, as is done with a stopwatch. Time units are the intervals between successive recurrences of phenomena, such as the period of rotation of the Earth or a specified number of periods of radiation derived from an atomic energy-level transition. other units are arbitrary multiples and subdivisions of these intervals, such as the hour being 1/24 of a day, and the minute being 1/60 of an hour.


Several phenomena are used as bases with which to determine time. The phenomenon traditionally used has been the rotation of the Earth, where the counting is by days. Days are measured by observing the meridian passages of the Sun or stars and are subdivided with the aid of precision clocks. The day, however, is subject to variations in duration because of the variable rotation rate of the Earth. Thus, when a more uniform time scale is required, other bases for time must be used.

Sidereal time.

The angle measured along the celestial equator between the observer's local meridian and the vernal equinox is the measure of sidereal time. In practice, a conventionally adopted mathematical expression provides this time as a function of civil time. It is reckoned from 0 to 24 hours, each hour being subdivided into 60 sidereal minutes and the minutes into 60 sidereal seconds. Sidereal clocks are used for convenience in many astronomical observatories because a star or other object outside the solar system comes to the same place in the sky at virtually the same sidereal time.

Solar time.

The angle measured along the celestial equator between the observer's local meridian and the Sun is the apparent solar time. The only true indicator of local apparent solar time is a sundial. Mean solar time has been devised to eliminate the irregularities in apparent solar time that arise from the inclination of the Earth's orbit to the plane of the Sun's motion and the varying speed of the Earth in its orbit. In practice it is defined by a conventionally adopted mathematical expression. Intervals of sidereal time can be converted into intervals of mean solar time by dividing by 1.002 737 909 35. Both sidereal and solar time depend on the rotation of the Earth for their time base.

Universal Time (UT).

Historically, the mean solar time determined for the meridian of 0° longitude using astronomical observations was referred to as UT1. Currently UT1 is used only as an angle expressed in time units that depends on the Earth's rotation with respect to the celestial reference system. It is defined by a conventional mathematical expression and continuing astronomical observations. These are made at a number of observatories around the world. The International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service (IERS) receives these data and provides daily values of the difference between UT1 and civil time.
Because the Earth has a nonuniform rate of rotation and a uniform time scale is required for many timing applications, a different definition of a second was adopted in 1967. The international agreement calls for the second to be defined as 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation derived from an energy-level transition in the cesium atom. This second is referred to as the international or SI (International System) second and is independent of astronomical observations. International Atomic Time (TAI) is maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) from data contributed by time-keeping laboratories around the world.
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) uses the SI second as its time base. However, the designation of the epoch may be changed at certain times so that UTC does not differ from UT1 by more than 0.9 s. UTC forms the basis for civil time in most countries and may sometimes be referred to unofficially as Greenwich Mean Time. The adjustments to UTC to bring this time scale into closer accord with UT1 consist of the insertion or deletion of integral seconds. These "leap seconds" may be applied preferably at 23 h 59 m 59 s of June 30 or December 31 of each year according to decisions made by the IERS. UTC differs from TAI by an integral number of atomic seconds.

Dynamical time.

Dynamical time is based on the apparent orbital motion of the Sun, Moon, and planets. It is the time inferred in the ephemerides of the positions of these objects, and from its inception in 1952 until 1984 was referred to as Ephemeris Time. Barycentric Dynamical Time (TDB) refers to ephemerides that have been computed by using the barycenter of the solar system as a reference. Terrestrial Dynamical Time (TDT) is the practical realization of dynamical time and is defined as being equal to TAI + 32.184 seconds. In 1991, the International Astronomical Union recommended that TDT be renamed Terrestrial Time (TT), that Geocentric Coordinate Time (TCG) be the time coordinate for the geocenter, and that Barycentric Coordinate Time (TCB) be the time coordinate for the barycenter of the solar system. These times are related by the appropriate relativistic transformations.

Civil and standard times.

Because rotational time scales are local angular measures, at any instant they vary from place to place on the Earth. When the mean solar time is 12 noon at Greenwich, the mean solar time for all places west of Greenwich is earlier than noon and for all places east of Greenwich later than noon, the difference being 1 hour for each 15° of longitude. Thus, at the same instant at short distances east of the 180th meridian the mean solar time is 12:01 A.M., and at a short distance west of the same meridian it is 11:59 P.M. of the same day. Thus persons traveling westward around the Earth must advance their time 1 day, and those traveling eastward must retard their time 1 day in order to be in agreement with their neighbors when they return home. The International Date Line is the name given to a line where the change of date is made. It follows approximately the 180th meridian but avoids inhabited land. To avoid the inconvenience of the continuous change of mean solar time with longitude, zone time or civil time is generally used. The Earth is divided into 24 time zones, each approximately 15° wide and centered on standard longitudes of 0°,15°,30°, and so on (see illustration). Within each of these zones the time kept is related to the mean solar time of the standard meridian.
Zone time is reckoned from 0 to 24 hours for most official purposes, the time in hours and minutes being expressed by a four-figure group followed by the zone designation. For example, "1009 zone plus five" refers to the zone 75° west of Greenwich, where zone time must be increased by 5 hours to obtain UTC. The various zones are sometimes designated by letters, especially the Greenwich zone which is Z, "1509 Z" meaning 1509 UTC. The zone centered on the 180th meridian is divided into two parts, the one east ofthe date line being designated plus 12 and the other minus 12. The time July 2,2400 is identical with July 3,0000.
In civil life the designations A.M. and PPM. are often used, usually with punctuation between hours and minutes. Thus 1009 may be written as 10:09 A.M. and 1509 as 3:09 P.M. The designations for noon and midnight, however, are often confused, and it is better to write 12:00 noon and July 2-3, 12:00 midnight, in order to avoid ambiguity. In some occupations where time is of special importance, there is a rule against using 12:00 at all, 11:59 or 12:01 being substituted. The time 1 minute after midnight is 12:01 A.M. and 1 minute after noon is 12:01 PPM.
The illustration shows the designations ofthe various time zones, the longitudes ofthe standard meridians, and the letter designations and the times in the various zones when it is noon at Greenwich. In the United States the boundaries of the time zones are fixed by the Department of Transportation. Frequently the actual boundaries depart considerably from the meridians exactly midway between the standard meridians. Ships at sea and transoceanic planes usually use UTC for navigation and communication, but for regulating daily activities onboard they use any convenient approximation to zone time, avoiding frequent changes during daylight hours.
Many countries, including the United States, advance their time 1 hour, particularly during the summer months, into "daylight saving time." For example, 6 A.M. is redesignated as 7 A.M. Such a practice effectively transfers an hour of little-used early morning light to the evening.
Time scales are coordinated internationally by the BIPM. Most countries maintain local time standards to provide accurate time within their borders by radio, telephone, and TV services. These national time scales are often intercompared by using the Global Positioning System (GPS) or time signals transferred by artificial Earth satellites.


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