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Earth Time on Schedule

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- In a phenomenon that has scientists puzzled, the
Earth is right on schedule for a fifth straight year.

Experts agree that the rate at which the Earth travels through space has
slowed ever so slightly for millennia. To make the world's official time
agree with where the Earth actually is in space, scientists in 1972
started adding an extra ``leap second'' on the last day of the year.

For 28 years, scientists repeated the procedure. But in 1999, they
discovered the Earth was no longer lagging behind.

At the National Institute for Science and Technology in Boulder,
spokesman Fred McGehan said most scientists agree the Earth's orbit
around the sun has been gradually slowing for millennia. But he said
they don't have a good explanation for why it's suddenly on schedule.

Possible explanations include the tides, weather and changes in the
Earth's core, he said.

The leap second was an unexpected consequence of the 1955 invention of
the atomic clock, which use the electromagnetic radiation emanated by
Cesium atoms to measure time. It is extremely reliable.

Atomic-based Coordinated Universal Time was implemented in 1972,
superseding the astronomically determined Greenwich Mean Time.

Leap seconds can be a big deal, affecting everything from communication,
navigation and air traffic control systems to the computers that link
global financial markets.


Jeff Davis, Ke9v
AMSAT #28350
Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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