New Year 2009 delayed by one second to correct atomic clocks

14:15, 10 December 2008
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It is the 24th...

A `leap second` will be added onto the final minute of 2008 because the planet is gradually slowing down as it spins on its axis, according to

The tweak will help correct the time-lag which shows up on ultra-accurate atomic clocks.

It is the 24th time since 1972 that the adjustment has been made by the Paris based International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service at intervals varying from six months to seven years. The last was in 2005.

Historically, time was based on the rotation of the Earth relative to celestial bodies.

Earth`s trip around the sun is about 365.2422 days long, which we round down to 365. Every four years, during a leap year, the inaccuracy is corrected by adding a day in February.

Mechanisms such as the Internet-based Network Time Protocol and the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) depend on the accurate time kept by atomic clocks.

That extra second will make 2008 – already long with an extra day on Feb. 29 – the longest year since 1992.

The decision to add an extra second was made by an international consortium of timekeepers, whose American arm announced the extension.

World commerce and digital technology depend on accurate to-the-second timekeeping, said Geoff Chester, spokesman for the US Naval Observatory in Washington, responsible for one-third of the world`s atomic clocks.

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