Are you excited for the weekend? After a busy work week, who isn't? Good news: it will be longer, but only by one second. International timekeepers are adding the “leap second” this weekend because the Earth is slowing down.
The Earth Orientation Centre of the IERS, a group responsible for tracking the gap between atomic and planetary time, announced that an additional second to the universal time will take place Saturday night.
On Saturday, Jun. 30, universal time will be 11:59:59 and then 11:59:60. This is the first time that a second has been added to the time since January 2009 and is the 25th time that such an incident has occurred.
A leap second is needed because the Earth is slowing down due to a tidal pull from the moon. On occasion, scientists add an extra second to make sure the sun is at its highest at noon during standard time.
“We want to have both times close together and it's not possible to adjust the earth's rotation," said Daniel Gambis, head of the Earth Orientation Centre of the IERS, in an interview with Reuters.
Surprisingly, there has been a rigorous debate as to whether or not we should abandon the leap second or keep it. Opponents of the leap second argue that a simpler system must be implemented to avoid the costs of manually changing computer networks. Meanwhile, advocates say it needs to stay to maintain sectors like navigation.
“This is something that affects not just the telecom industry," said Britain's Royal Astronomical Society spokesperson Robert Massey with the news outlet. "It would decouple time-keeping from the position of the sun in the sky and so a broad debate is needed."
During a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations agency responsible for international communications standards, there were calls to eradicate the leap second, but the meeting failed to generate a defined stance.
What do you plan to do with an extra second this weekend?