For those who say that “It’s been a long year”..yes..you are saying it right!
That is because the last minute of 2016 will be exactly one second longer than a normal minute which makes it exactly 61 seconds. Therefore in this year when you are counting for the New Year’s dawn, you need to do the counting down different. Instead of counting as 2016 December 31, 23h 59m 59s and then Ta da it’s 2017 January 1, 0h 0m 0s, you need to count it as 2016 December 31, 23h 59m 59s and then 2016 December 31, 23h 59m 60s and then Ta da! It’s 2017 January 1, 0h 0m 0s.
Why is that? That is because of the concept of leap second or the extra second which pays off the slowdown in the Earth’s rotation. Yes there are two different times that we know of. One is civil time which we use and the other one is Earth time which is always there. In order make two of them the same we need this concept of leap seconds.
You may think like what a difference would it make by a second? But do you know even though it takes 1000 years to accumulate a one-hour time of difference, if you don’t consider it with time being your wall clock or the hand watch may show the midday even before the sunrise.
Normally astronomical timing is based on the length of an earth day and this might not be a consistent standard as it varies with the rotation of the earth. So with the slowing down of the earth rotation with years we needed to come up with an idea to make the clocks accurate as possible to the best point. Therefore this concept of heap seconds was introduced. And it is believed that just like the heap seconds in order to balance things out minus seconds can be also used where it was not required to apply with any of the past occasions.
This leap second was introduced back in 1972 and this year we are witnessing the 27th leap second since then. The most recent leap second was resulted in June, 2015. Depending on the need these extra seconds are added mostly on June 30th or 31st of December midnight, yet there might be situations where it was implemented in March or September as well. And it is announced 6 months prior to the implementation of leap second in order to take necessary precautions (more of programming of computers) to avoid failures that might happen in applications that rely on precise timing such as communication networks, financial systems.
Now it is true. It is a year with an extra bit of time for you to spend actually a second. Take a deep breath within that one second and wish everyone a happy new year in the next second!