The Future of Time
Splinter session to be held at the 223rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
Sunday, 5 January 2014
Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center
Turning day into night:
A proposal to redefine Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to no longer be tied to the rotation of the Earth narrowly missed a vote at the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations. A similar proposal is scheduled for the 2015 WRC.
Though the IAU has a commission on time and a working group on the future of UTC, the decision is out of the hands of astronomers – but with significant operational and financial implications for observatories, space missions, and time domain science. Redefining UTC would introduce a secular drift between civil time and solar time. Even familiar concepts like the "day" would become incoherent; each missed leap second would add an error of 15 seconds of arc at the equator. Clocks worldwide – and on your computer, phone and wrist – would no longer keep time by the Sun in the sky.
Historians and educators from college textbook authors to kindergarten teachers would have to convey the philosophical sea change that time was no longer linked to motions in the Universe.
We will discuss the history and future of timekeeping, and will present strategies and best practices (whatever the ITU outcome) for time standards and network clocks, and for performing a Y2K-like software and system inventory at your institution. Changes to operating procedures, infrastructure, and technical documentation will be considered.
Agenda & Presentations
Timescales in the Solar System - click for larger version (figure courtesy A. Rots, Harvard CFA)