The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), formerly the International Earth Rotation Service, is the body responsible for maintaining global time and reference frame standards, notably through its Earth Orientation Parameter (EOP) and International Celestial Reference System (ICRS) groups.
|International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service|
The IERS logo
The IERS was established in its present form in 1987 by the International Astronomical Union and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, replacing the earlier International Polar Motion Service (IPMS) and the Earth rotation section of the Bureau International de l'Heure (BIH). The service began operation on January 1, 1988. Since its inception, the IERS has established new bureaus including the GPS Coordinating Centre in 1990, the DORIS Coordinating Centre in 1994 and the GGF Coordinating Centre in 1998. The organization was formerly known as International Earth Rotation Service until 2003 when it formally changed its name to its present form, in which the organization chose to retain the acronym IERS.
The Sub-bureau for Rapid Service and Predictions of Earth Orientation Parameters of the IERS, located at the United States Naval Observatory, monitors the Earth's rotation. Part of its mission involves the determination of a time scale based on the current rate of the rotation of the Earth. Other services of IERS are at the Paris Observatory.
UT1 is the non-uniform time defined based on the Earth's rotation.
It defined the IERS Reference Meridian, the International Terrestrial Reference System (ITRS), and subsequent International Terrestrial Reference Frames (ITRF). Related coordinate systems are used by satellite navigation systems like GPS and Galileo: WGS84 and GTRF. The definitions and relationships among ITRF, ICRF and EOP are established by IERS conventions standards. As of 2018, the most recent convention is the IERS Conventions (2010).
An astronomical constant is a physical constant used in astronomy. Formal sets of constants, along with recommended values, have been defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) several times: in 1964 and in 1976 (with an update in 1994). In 2009 the IAU adopted a new current set, and recognizing that new observations and techniques continuously provide better values for these constants, they decided to not fix these values, but have the Working Group on Numerical Standards continuously maintain a set of Current Best Estimates. The set of constants is widely reproduced in publications such as the Astronomical Almanac of the United States Naval Observatory and HM Nautical Almanac Office.
Besides the IAU list of units and constants, also the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service defines constants relevant to the orientation and rotation of the Earth, in its technical notes.
The IAU system of constants defines a system of astronomical units for length, mass and time (in fact, several such systems), and also includes constants such as the speed of light and the constant of gravitation which allow transformations between astronomical units and SI units. Slightly different values for the constants are obtained depending on the frame of reference used. Values quoted in barycentric dynamical time (TDB) or equivalent time scales such as the Teph of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory ephemerides represent the mean values that would be measured by an observer on the Earth's surface (strictly, on the surface of the geoid) over a long period of time. The IAU also recommends values in SI units, which are the values which would be measured (in proper length and proper time) by an observer at the barycentre of the Solar System: these are obtained by the following transformations:
The astronomical system of units, formally called the IAU (1976) System of Astronomical Constants, is a system of measurement developed for use in astronomy. It was adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1976, and has been significantly updated in 1994 and 2009 (see astronomical constant).
The system was developed because of the difficulties in measuring and expressing astronomical data in International System of Units (SI units). In particular, there is a huge quantity of very precise data relating to the positions of objects within the Solar System which cannot conveniently be expressed or processed in SI units. Through a number of modifications, the astronomical system of units now explicitly recognizes the consequences of general relativity, which is a necessary addition to the International System of Units in order to accurately treat astronomical data.
The astronomical system of units is a tridimensional system, in that it defines units of length, mass and time. The associated astronomical constants also fix the different frames of reference that are needed to report observations. The system is a conventional system, in that neither the unit of length nor the unit of mass are true physical constants, and there are at least three different measures of time.Chandler wobble
The Chandler wobble or variation of latitude is a small deviation in the Earth's axis of rotation relative to the solid earth, which was discovered by American astronomer Seth Carlo Chandler in 1891. It amounts to change of about 9 metres (30 ft) in the point at which the axis intersects the Earth's surface and has a period of 433 days. This wobble, which is a nutation, combines with another wobble with a period of one year, so that the total polar motion varies with a period of about 7 years.
The Chandler wobble is an example of the kind of motion that can occur for a spinning object that is not a sphere; this is called a free nutation. Somewhat confusingly, the direction of the Earth's spin axis relative to the stars also varies with different periods, and these motions—caused by the tidal forces of the Moon and Sun—are also called nutations, except for the slowest, which are precessions of the equinoxes.Coordinated Universal Time
Coordinated Universal Time (abbreviated to UTC) is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is within about 1 second of mean solar time at 0° longitude, and is not adjusted for daylight saving time. In some countries where English is spoken, the term Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is often used as a synonym for UTC and predates UTC by nearly 300 years.The first Coordinated Universal Time was informally adopted on 1 January 1960 and was first officially adopted as CCIR Recommendation 374, Standard-Frequency and Time-Signal Emissions, in 1963, but the official abbreviation of UTC and the official English name of Coordinated Universal Time (along with the French equivalent) were not adopted until 1967.The system has been adjusted several times, including a brief period where time coordination radio signals broadcast both UTC and "Stepped Atomic Time (SAT)" before a new UTC was adopted in 1970 and implemented in 1972. This change also adopted leap seconds to simplify future adjustments. This CCIR Recommendation 460 "stated that (a) carrier frequencies and time intervals should be maintained constant and should correspond to the definition of the SI second; (b) step adjustments, when necessary, should be exactly 1 s to maintain approximate agreement with Universal Time (UT); and (c) standard signals should contain information on the difference between UTC and UT."A number of proposals have been made to replace UTC with a new system that would eliminate leap seconds. A decision whether to remove them altogether has been deferred until 2023.The current version of UTC is defined by International Telecommunications Union Recommendation (ITU-R TF.460-6), Standard-frequency and time-signal emissions, and is based on International Atomic Time (TAI) with leap seconds added at irregular intervals to compensate for the slowing of the Earth's rotation. Leap seconds are inserted as necessary to keep UTC within 0.9 seconds of the UT1 variant of universal time. See the "Current number of leap seconds" section for the number of leap seconds inserted to date.Day
A day is approximately the period of time during which the Earth completes one rotation around its axis. A solar day is the length of time which elapses between the Sun reaching its highest point in the sky two consecutive times.In 1960, the second was redefined in terms of the orbital motion of the Earth in year 1900, and was designated the SI base unit of time. The unit of measurement "day", was redefined as 86,400 SI seconds and symbolized d. In 1967, the second and so the day were redefined by atomic electron transition. A civil day is usually 86,400 seconds, plus or minus a possible leap second in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), and occasionally plus or minus an hour in those locations that change from or to daylight saving time.Day can be defined as each of the twenty-four-hour periods, reckoned from one midnight to the next, into which a week, month, or year is divided, and corresponding to a rotation of the earth on its axis. However its use depends on its context, for example when people say 'day and night', 'day' will have a different meaning. It will mean the interval of light between two successive nights; the time between sunrise and sunset, in this instance 'day' will mean time of light between one night and the next. However, in order to be clear when using 'day' in that sense, "daytime" should be used to distinguish it from "day" referring to a 24-hour period; this is since daytime usually always means 'the time of the day between sunrise and sunset. The word day may also refer to a day of the week or to a calendar date, as in answer to the question, "On which day?" The life patterns (circadian rhythms) of humans and many other species are related to Earth's solar day and the day-night cycle.Day length fluctuations
The length of the day, which has increased over the long term of Earth's history due to tidal effects, is also subject to fluctuations on a shorter scale of time. Exact measurements of time by atomic clocks and satellite laser ranging have revealed that the length of day (LOD) is subject to a number of different changes. These subtle variations have periods that range from a few weeks to a few years. They are attributed to interactions between the dynamic atmosphere and Earth itself. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service monitors the changes.Dennis McCarthy (scientist)
Dennis D. McCarthy is a former Director of Time at the United States Naval Observatory. McCarthy also works for the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service.Deutsches Geodätisches Forschungsinstitut
The Deutsches Geodätisches Forschungsinstitut (German Geodetic Research Institute), commonly abbreviated as "DGFI", is a research institute located in Munich Germany, dedicated to the study of Geodesy. It was established in 1951, and operates under the auspices of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities.Earth's rotation
Earth's rotation is the rotation of Planet Earth around its own axis. Earth rotates eastward, in prograde motion. As viewed from the north pole star Polaris, Earth turns counter clockwise.
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is the point in the Northern Hemisphere where Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface. This point is distinct from Earth's North Magnetic Pole. The South Pole is the other point where Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface, in Antarctica.
Earth rotates once in about 24 hours with respect to the Sun, but once every 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds with respect to other, distant, stars (see below). Earth's rotation is slowing slightly with time; thus, a day was shorter in the past. This is due to the tidal effects the Moon has on Earth's rotation. Atomic clocks show that a modern day is longer by about 1.7 milliseconds than a century ago, slowly increasing the rate at which UTC is adjusted by leap seconds. Analysis of historical astronomical records shows a slowing trend of about 2.3 milliseconds per century since the 8th century BCE.IERS (disambiguation)
IERS refers to International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service.IERS Reference Meridian
The IERS Reference Meridian (IRM), also called the International Reference Meridian, is the prime meridian (0° longitude) maintained by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS). It passes about 5.3 arcseconds east of George Biddell Airy's 1851 transit circle or 102 metres (335 ft) at the latitude of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. It is also the reference meridian of the Global Positioning System (GPS) operated by the United States Department of Defense, and of WGS84 and its two formal versions, the ideal International Terrestrial Reference System (ITRS) and its realization, the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF).Intercalation (timekeeping)
Intercalation or embolism in timekeeping is the insertion of a leap day, week, or month into some calendar years to make the calendar follow the seasons or moon phases. Lunisolar calendars may require intercalations of both days and months.International Celestial Reference Frame
In astrometry, an International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF) is a realization of the International Celestial Reference System (ICRS) using reference celestial sources observed at radio wavelengths. In the context of the ICRS, a reference frame is the physical realization of a reference system, i.e., the reference frame is the set of reported coordinates of the reference sources, with the coordinates derived using the procedures spelled out by the ICRS.The ICRF creates a quasi-inertial frame of reference centered at the barycenter of the Solar System, whose axes are defined by the measured positions of extragalactic sources (mainly quasars) observed using very long baseline interferometry. Although general relativity implies that there are no true inertial frames around gravitating bodies, the ICRF is important because it does not exhibit any measurable angular motion since the extragalactic sources used to define the ICRF are so far away. The ICRF is now the standard reference frame used to define the positions of the planets (including the Earth) and other astronomical objects.International Terrestrial Reference System and Frame
The International Terrestrial Reference System (ITRS) describes procedures for creating reference frames suitable for use with measurements on or near the Earth's surface. This is done in much the same way that a physical standard might be described as a set of procedures for creating a realization of that standard. The ITRS defines a geocentric system of coordinates using the SI system of measurement.
An International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF) is a realization of the ITRS. New ITRF solutions are produced every few years, using the latest mathematical and surveying techniques to attempt to realize the ITRS as precisely as possible. Due to experimental error, any given ITRF will differ very slightly from any other realization of the ITRF. The difference between the latest WGS 84 and the latest ITRF is only a few centimeters.Practical navigation systems are in general referenced to a specific ITRF solution, or to their own coordinate systems which are then referenced to an ITRF solution.
The ITRS and ITRF solutions are maintained by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS).
The Galileo Terrestrial Reference Frame (GTRF) is used for the Galileo navigation system; currently defined as ITRF2005.
GTRF is defined by the European Space Agency (ESA).International Time Bureau
The International Time Bureau (French: Bureau International de l'Heure, abbreviated BIH) seated at the Paris Observatory, was the international bureau responsible for combining different measurements of Universal Time. The bureau also played an important role in the research of time keeping. In 1987 the responsibilities of the bureau were taken over by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) and the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS).Leap second
A leap second is a one-second adjustment that is occasionally applied to civil time Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to keep it close to the mean solar time at Greenwich, in spite of the Earth's rotation slowdown and irregularities. UTC was introduced on January 1, 1972, initially with a 10 second lag behind International Atomic Time (TAI). Since that date, 27 leap seconds have been inserted, the most recent on December 31, 2016 at 23:59:60 UTC, so in 2018, UTC lags behind TAI by an offset of 37 seconds.The UTC time standard, which is widely used for international timekeeping and as the reference for civil time in most countries, uses the international system (SI) definition of the second. The UTC second has been calibrated with atomic clocks to the duration of the Earth's mean day of the astronomical year 1900. Because the rotation of the Earth has since further slowed down, the duration of today's mean solar day is longer (by roughly 0.001 seconds) than 24 SI hours (86,400 SI seconds). UTC would step ahead of solar time and need adjustment even if the Earth's rotation remained constant in the future. Therefore, if the UTC day were defined as precisely 86,400 SI seconds, the UTC time-of-day would slowly drift apart from that of solar-based standards, such as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and its successor UT1. The point on the Earth's equator where the sun culminates at 12:00:00 UTC would wander to the East by some 300 m each year. The leap second compensates for this drift, by occasionally scheduling a UTC day with 86,401 or (in principle) 86,399 SI seconds.
When it occurs, a positive leap second is inserted between second 23:59:59 of a chosen UTC calendar date and second 00:00:00 of the following date. The definition of UTC states that the last day of December and June are preferred, with the last day of March or September as second preference, and the last day of any other month as third preference. All leap seconds (as of 2017) have been scheduled for either June 30 or December 31. The extra second is displayed on UTC clocks as 23:59:60. On clocks that display local time tied to UTC, the leap second may be inserted at the end of some other hour (or half-hour or quarter-hour), depending on the local time zone. A negative leap second would suppress second 23:59:59 of the last day of a chosen month, so that second 23:59:58 of that date would be followed immediately by second 00:00:00 of the following date. Since the introduction of leap seconds, the mean solar day has outpaced UTC only for very brief periods, and has not triggered a negative leap second.
Because the Earth's rotation speed varies in response to climatic and geological events, UTC leap seconds are irregularly spaced and unpredictable. Insertion of each UTC leap second is usually decided about six months in advance by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), when needed to ensure that the difference between the UTC and UT1 readings will never exceed 0.9 seconds.Polar motion
Polar motion of the Earth is the motion of the Earth's rotational axis relative to its crust. This is measured with respect to a reference frame in which the solid Earth is fixed (a so-called Earth-centered, Earth-fixed or ECEF reference frame). This variation is only a few meters.Rotation period
In astronomy, the rotation period of a celestial object is the time that it takes to complete one revolution around its axis of rotation relative to the background stars. It differs from the planet's solar day, which includes an extra fractional rotation needed to accommodate the portion of the planet's orbital period during one day.Sidereal year
A sidereal year (from Latin sidus "asterism, star") is the time taken by the Earth to orbit the Sun once with respect to the fixed stars. Hence, it is also the time taken for the Sun to return to the same position with respect to the fixed stars after apparently travelling once around the ecliptic.
It equals 365.256 363 004 SI days for the J2000.0 epoch.The sidereal year differs from the tropical year, "the period of time required for the ecliptic longitude of the sun to increase 360 degrees", due to the precession of the equinoxes.
The sidereal year is 20 min 24.5 s longer than the mean tropical year at J2000.0 (365.242 190 402 SI days).Before the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes by Hipparchus in the Hellenistic period, the difference between sidereal and tropical year was unknown. For naked-eye observation, the shift of the constellations relative to the equinoxes only becomes apparent over centuries or "ages", and pre-modern calendars such as Hesiod's Works and Days would give the times of the year for sowing, harvest, and so on by reference to the first visibility of stars, effectively using the sidereal year. The South and Southeast Asian solar New Year, based on Indic influences, is traditionally reckoned by the sun's entry into Aries and thus the sidereal year, but is also supposed to align with the spring equinox and have relevance to the harvesting and planting season and thus the tropical year. As these have grown apart, in some countries and cultures the date has been fixed according to the tropical year while in others the astronomical calculation and sidereal year is still used.
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