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50 years in the past, timekeepers deployed the newly invented leap second

by Green Zak
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cover of the January 12, 1974 issue of Science News

Happy leap second!Science News, January 12, 1974

A “leap second” has been invented … to maintain time alerts utilized by navigators consistent with the precise movement of the Earth. The newest leap second was celebrated New Year’s Eve on the stroke of midnight Greenwich Mean Time, when around the globe … radio stations added an additional “beep” to their hourly time alerts.


Time is operating out for the leap second. In 2022, metrologists voted to desert the timekeeping quirk by 2035. Unlike the intercalary year, which happens each 4 years, the leap second is deployed at any time when clocks want adjusting as a consequence of variations in Earth’s spin inflicting slight modifications within the size of a day. Global officers have inserted a leap second 27 instances since 1972. But satellites and different tech that depend on the exact time saved by atomic clocks can glitch when the clocks are adjusted (SN: 4/22/06, p. 248). Scientists have recommended utilizing a leap minute as an alternative, which might require atomic clocks be reset as soon as each 50 years or so.

Cassie Martin is a deputy managing editor. She has a bachelor’s diploma in molecular genetics from Michigan State University and a grasp’s diploma in science journalism from Boston University.

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