Okay, stick with me on this one.
It’s New Years Eve and we are adding an extra second on the the ball-drop tonight.
It’s all about the “leap second”. A leap second is a one-second adjustment that keeps broadcast standards for time of day close to mean solar time.
Broadcast standards for civil time are based on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), a time standard which is maintained using extremely precise atomic clocks. The leap is a “correction” in time.
Officially, when a positive leap second is added at 23:59:60 UTC, it delays the start of the following UTC day (at 00:00:00 UTC) by one second, effectively slowing the UTC clock.
London’s Big Ben, whose bongs bring in the new year across the UK, will be adjusted while the BBC adds an extra “pip” to mark the delayed start to the year.
Peter Whibberley, a senior research scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington which is helping to coordinate the update, said:
“The difference between atomic time and Earth time has now built up to the point where it needs to be corrected, so this New Year’s Eve we will experience a rare 61-second minute at the very end of 2008 and revellers all over the UK will have an extra second to celebrate.”Immediately before midnight a leap second — the first for three years — will be added to atomic clocks around the world by official timekeepers. “The difference between atomic time and Earth time has now built up to the point where it needs to be corrected, so this New Year’s Eve we will experience a rare 61 second minute at the very end of 2008 and revelers… will have an extra second to celebrate.”
Therefore, the final seconds of 2008 will actually be 57, 58, 59, 60, 00 — with 60 being the extra second.
For me, the hard part will be staying up to appreciate it!