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Definition: universal time from Collins English Dictionary

n

1 (from 1928) name adopted internationally for Greenwich Mean Time (measured from Greenwich midnight), now split into several slightly different scales, one of which (UT1) is used by astronomers. Abbreviation: UT 2 Also called: universal coordinated time an internationally agreed system for civil timekeeping introduced in 1960 and redefined in 1972 as an atomic timescale. Available from broadcast signals, it has a second equal to the International Atomic Time (TAI) second, the difference between UTC and TAI being an integral number of seconds with leap seconds inserted when necessary to keep it within 0.9 seconds of UT1. Abbreviation: UTC


Summary Article: universal time
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(UT), the international time standard common to every place in the world, it nominally reflects the mean solar time along the earth's prime meridian (renumbered to equate to civil time). In 1884, under international agreement, the prime meridian was established as running through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, setting the standard of Greenwich mean time (GMT). In keeping with tradition, the start of a solar day occurred at noon. In 1925 the numbering system for GMT was changed so that the day began at midnight to make it consistent with the civil day. Some confusion in terminology resulted, however, and in 1928 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) changed the designation of the standard time of the prime meridian to universal time. In 1955 the IAU defined several kinds of UT. The initial values of universal time obtained at 75 observatories, denoted UT0, differ slightly because of polar motion. By adding a correction each observatory converts UT0 into UT1, which gives the Earth's rotational position in space. An empirical correction to take account of annual changes in the speed of rotation is then added to convert UT1 to UT2. However, UT2 has since been superseded by atomic time (time as given by atomic clocks). Universal time is also called world time, Z time, and Zulu time.

In 1964 a new timescale, called coordinated universal time (UTC), was internationally adopted. UTC is more uniform and more accurate than the UT2 system because the UTC second is based on atomic time (although the UTC year is still based on the time it takes the earth to complete one orbit). Because the rate of the earth's rotation is gradually slowing, it is occasionally necessary to add an extra second, called the leap second, to the length of the UTC year; synchronization is obtained by making the last minute of June or December contain 61 seconds. About one leap second per year has been inserted since 1972.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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