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Australian scientists create time on New Year’s Day

30 December 2016

One of the country’s leading research facilities will create time on New Year’s Day, keeping Australia in sync with the rest of the world.

Immediately before 11:00:00 am (AEDT) on New Year’s Day, Australian measurement scientists at the National Measurement Institute (NMI) will add an extra second to their super-accurate atomic clocks, to account for a very slight slowing in the Earth’s rotation.

This “leap second”, although minor, will impact the daily life of many Australians.

Highly accurate timekeeping is critical to many different aspects of everyday life – in areas such as transport, computing, satellite navigation, financial markets, telecommunications and even sports rely on precise and stable measurement of time.

The need for a leap second is determined by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS).

The IERS keeps track of time by comparing the Earth’s rotation, which varies, against an international network of atomic clocks. Introducing the leap second keeps the time difference between the two ‘clocks’ to below 0.9 seconds.

Without leap seconds being added periodically, calendar time and atomic time would gradually drift apart.

The leap second is introduced to the world’s atomic clocks in unison, immediately before midnight on 31st December UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).

NMI’s world-leading scientists play a vital role in upholding Australia’s measurement reference standards, including the atomic reference clocks that contribute to international time standards.

For more than a decade, NMI has supplied accurate timing systems that link the atomic clocks to industry, defence, government, law enforcement, telecommunications and financial markets.

This work ensures that Australian private and public sectors operate competitively in today’s global environment, when every second counts—especially in financial markets.

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