By: Weston Williams writing for The Christian Science Monitor
—As 2016 draws to a close and excitement ramps up for the new year, many people are looking forward to the final countdown of 2016 into 2017. But this year, that countdown could be a little off, due to a pause known as a leap second.
Usually, a day has 86,400 seconds. December 31, 2016, however, will have 86,401.
The extra second, which will be added to the very end of this year, will help account for inconsistencies between super-accurate human atomic timekeeping and Earth’s natural, if less consistent, rotation speed. While atomic clocks define a second very rigidly and precisely, seconds based on Earth’s rotation are slightly off and variabledue to tidal friction as the moon’s gravity tugs on the Earth’s oceans. As a result, keeping the two timekeeping systems within 0.9 seconds of each other requires an extra second now and again to keep them fully in sync.
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