Sidereal time

Sidereal time /saɪˈdɪəriəl/ is a timekeeping system that astronomers use to locate celestial objects. Using sidereal time, it is possible to easily point a telescope to the proper coordinates in the night sky. Briefly, sidereal time is a "time scale that is based on Earth's rate of rotation measured relative to the fixed stars".[1]

20180505 123207-sidereal-clock
Photo of the face of one of the two Sidereal Angle clocks in the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.

Viewed from the same location, a star seen at one position in the sky will be seen at the same position on another night at the same sidereal time. This is similar to how the time kept by a sundial can be used to find the location of the Sun. Just as the Sun and Moon appear to rise in the east and set in the west due to the rotation of Earth, so do the stars. Both solar time and sidereal time make use of the regularity of Earth's rotation about its polar axis, solar time following the Sun while sidereal time roughly follows the stars.

More exactly, sidereal time is the angle, measured along the celestial equator, from the observer's meridian to the great circle that passes through the March equinox and both celestial poles, and is usually expressed in hours, minutes, and seconds.[2] Common time on a typical clock measures a slightly longer cycle, accounting not only for Earth's axial rotation but also for Earth's orbit around the Sun.

A sidereal day is approximately 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0905 SI seconds (24 hours - 4 minutes + 4 seconds). The March equinox itself precesses slowly westward relative to the fixed stars, completing one revolution in about 26,000 years, so the misnamed sidereal day ("sidereal" is derived from the Latin sidus meaning "star") is 0.0084 seconds shorter than the stellar day, Earth's period of rotation relative to the fixed stars.[3] The slightly longer "true" sidereal period is measured as the Earth Rotation Angle (ERA), formerly the stellar angle.[4] An increase of 360° in the ERA is a full rotation of the Earth.

Because Earth orbits the Sun once a year, the sidereal time at any given place and time will gain about four minutes against local civil time, every 24 hours, until, after a year has passed, one additional sidereal "day" has elapsed compared to the number of solar days that have gone by.

Sidereal Clock made for Sir George Augustus William Shuckburgh
One of the two known surviving sidereal angle clocks in the world. It was made for Sir George Shuckburgh-Evelyn. It is on display in the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London.
This astronomical clock uses dials showing both sidereal and solar time.

Comparison to solar time

Sidereal time
Sidereal time vs solar time. Above left: a distant star (the small orange star) and the Sun are at culmination, on the local meridian m. Centre: only the distant star is at culmination (a mean sidereal day). Right: a few minutes later the Sun is on the local meridian again. A solar day is complete.

Solar time is measured by the apparent diurnal motion of the Sun, and local noon in apparent solar time is the moment when the Sun is exactly due south or north (depending on the observer's latitude and the season). A mean solar day (what we normally measure as a "day") is the average time between local solar noons ("average" since this varies slightly over the year).

Earth makes one rotation around its axis in a sidereal day; during that time it moves a short distance (about 1°) along its orbit around the Sun. So after a sidereal day has passed, Earth still needs to rotate slightly more before the Sun reaches local noon according to solar time. A mean solar day is, therefore, nearly 4 minutes longer than a sidereal day.

The stars are so far away that Earth's movement along its orbit makes nearly no difference to their apparent direction (see, however, parallax), and so they return to their highest point in a sidereal day.

Another way to see this difference is to notice that, relative to the stars, the Sun appears to move around Earth once per year. Therefore, there is one fewer solar day per year than there are sidereal days. This makes a sidereal day approximately 365.24/366.24 times the length of the 24-hour solar day, giving approximately 23 h 56 min 4.1 s (86,164.1 s).

Precession effects

Earth's rotation is not a simple rotation around an axis that would always remain parallel to itself. Earth's rotational axis itself rotates about a second axis, orthogonal to Earth's orbit, taking about 25,800 years to perform a complete rotation. This phenomenon is called the precession of the equinoxes. Because of this precession, the stars appear to move around Earth in a manner more complicated than a simple constant rotation.

For this reason, to simplify the description of Earth's orientation in astronomy and geodesy, it was conventional to chart the positions of the stars in the sky according to right ascension and declination, which are based on a frame that follows Earth's precession, and to keep track of Earth's rotation, through sidereal time, relative to this frame as well.[a] In this reference frame, Earth's rotation is close to constant, but the stars appear to rotate slowly with a period of about 25,800 years. It is also in this reference frame that the tropical year, the year related to Earth's seasons, represents one orbit of Earth around the Sun. The precise definition of a sidereal day is the time taken for one rotation of Earth in this precessing reference frame.

Modern definitions

In the past, time was measured by observing stars with instruments such as photographic zenith tubes and Danjon astrolabes, and the passage of stars across defined lines would be timed with the observatory clock. Then, using the right ascension of the stars from a star catalog, the time when the star should have passed through the meridian of the observatory was computed, and a correction to the time kept by the observatory clock was computed. Sidereal time was defined such that the March equinox would transit the meridian of the observatory at 0 hours local sidereal time.[6]

Beginning in the 1970s the radio astronomy methods Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) and pulsar timing overtook optical instruments for the most precise astrometry. This led to the determination of UT1 (mean solar time at 0° longitude) using VLBI, a new measure of the rotation of the Earth named Earth Rotation Angle, and new definitions of sidereal time. These changes were put into practice on 1 January 2003.[7]

Earth Rotation Angle

The Earth Rotation Angle (ERA) measures the rotation of the Earth from an origin on the celestial equator, the Celestial Intermediate Origin, that has no instantaneous motion along the equator; it was originally referred to as the non-rotating origin. ERA replaces Greenwich Apparent Sidereal Time (GAST). The origin on the celestial equator for GAST, called the true equinox, does move, due to the movement of the equator and the ecliptic. The lack of motion of the origin of ERA is considered a significant advantage.[8]

ERA, measured in radians, is related to UT1 by the expression[3]

where tU is the Julian UT1 date − 2451545.0.

The ERA may be converted to other units; for example, the Astronomical Almanac for the Year 2017 tabulated it in degrees, minutes, and seconds.[9]

As an example, the Astronomical Almanac for the Year 2017 gave the ERA at 0 h 1 January 2017 UT1 as 100° 37′ 12.4365″.[10]

Sidereal time

Although ERA is intended to replace sidereal time, there is a need to maintain definitions for sidereal time during the transition, and when working with older data and documents.

Similarly to mean solar time, every location on Earth has its own local sidereal time (LST), depending on the longitude of the point. Since it is not feasible to publish tables for every longitude, astronomical tables make use of Greenwich sidereal time (GST), which is sidereal time on the IERS Reference Meridian, less precisely called the Greenwich, or prime meridian. There are two varieties, mean sidereal time if the mean equator and equinox of date are used, or apparent sidereal time if the apparent equator and equinox of date are used. The former ignores the effect of nutation while the latter includes nutation. When the choice of location is combined with the choice of including nutation or not, the acronyms GMST, LMST, GAST, and LAST result.

The following relationships hold:[11]

local mean sidereal time = GMST + east longitude
local apparent sidereal time = GAST + east longitude

The new definitions of Greenwich mean and apparent sidereal time (since 2003, see above) are:

where θ is the Earth Rotation Angle, EPREC is the accumulated precession, and E0 is equation of the origins, which represents accumulated precession and nutation.[12] The calculation of precession and nutation was described in Chapter 6 of Urban & Seidelmann.

As an example, the Astronomical Almanac for the Year 2017 gave the ERA at 0 h 1 January 2017 UT1 as 100° 17′ 12.4365″. The GAST was 6 h 43 m 20.7109 s. For GMST the hour and minute were the same but the second was 21.1060.[10]

Relationship between solar time and sidereal time intervals

If a certain interval I is measured in both mean solar time (UT1) and sidereal time, the numerical value will be greater in sidereal time than in UT1, because sidereal days are shorter than UT1 days. The ratio is:

where t represents the number of Julian centuries elapsed since noon 1 January 2000 Terrestrial Time.[13]

Sidereal days compared to solar days on other planets

Of the eight solar planets, all but Venus and Uranus have prograde rotation—that is, they rotate more than once per year in the same direction as they orbit the Sun, so the Sun rises in the east.[14] Venus and Uranus, however, have retrograde rotation. For prograde rotation, the formula relating the lengths of the sidereal and solar days is:

number of sidereal days per orbital period = 1 + number of solar days per orbital period

or, equivalently:

length of solar day = length of sidereal day/1 − length of sidereal day/orbital period.

On the other hand, the formula in the case of retrograde rotation is:

number of sidereal days per orbital period = −1 + number of solar days per orbital period

or, equivalently:

length of solar day = length of sidereal day/1 + length of sidereal day/orbital period.

All the solar planets more distant from the Sun than Earth are similar to Earth in that, since they experience many rotations per revolution around the Sun, there is only a small difference between the length of the sidereal day and that of the solar day – the ratio of the former to the latter never being less than Earth's ratio of 0.997. But the situation is quite different for Mercury and Venus. Mercury's sidereal day is about two-thirds of its orbital period, so by the prograde formula its solar day lasts for two revolutions around the Sun – three times as long as its sidereal day. Venus rotates retrograde with a sidereal day lasting about 243.0 Earth days, or about 1.08 times its orbital period of 224.7 Earth days; hence by the retrograde formula its solar day is about 116.8 Earth days, and it has about 1.9 solar days per orbital period.

By convention, rotation periods of planets are given in sidereal terms unless otherwise specified.

See also


  1. ^ The conventional reference frame, for purposes of star catalogues, was replaced in 1998 with the International Celestial Reference Frame, which is fixed with respect to extra-galactic radio sources. Because of the great distances, these sources have no appreciable proper motion.[5]


  1. ^ NIST n.d. A more precise definition is given later in the lead.
  2. ^ Urban & Seidelmann 2013, "Glossary" s.v. hour angle, hour circle, sidereal time.
  3. ^ a b Urban & Seidelmann 2013, p. 78.
  4. ^ IERS 2013.
  5. ^ Urban & Seidelmann 2013, p. 105.
  6. ^ ES1 1961, Ch 3, "Systems of Time Measurement".
  7. ^ Urban & Seidelmann 2013, pp. 78–81, 112.
  8. ^ Urban & Seidelmann 2013, p. 6.
  9. ^ Astronomical Almanac 2016, pp. B21–B24.
  10. ^ a b Astronomical Almanac 2016, p. B21.
  11. ^ Urban & Seidelmann 2013, p. 80.
  12. ^ Urban & Seidelmann 2013, pp. 78–79.
  13. ^ Urban & Seidelmann 2013, p. 81.
  14. ^ Bakich 2000.


  • Astronomical Almanac for the Year 2017. Washington and Taunton: US Government Printing Office and The UK Hydrographic Office. 2016. ISBN 978-0-7077-41666.
  • Bakich, Michael E. (2000). The Cambridge Planetary Handbook. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-63280-3.
  • "Earth Rotation Angle". International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service. 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  • Explanatory Supplement to the Ephemeris. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1961.
  • "Time and Frequency from A to Z, S to So". National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • Urban, Sean E.; Seidelmann, P. Kenneth, eds. (2013). Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac (3rd ed.). Mill Valley, CA: University Science Books. ISBN 1-891389-85-8.

External links

Anti-sidereal time

Anti-sidereal time and extended-sidereal time are artificial time standards used to analyze the daily variation in the number of cosmic rays received on Earth. Anti-sidereal time has about 364.25 days per year, one day less than the number of days in a year of solar time, 365.25. Thus each anti-sidereal day is longer than a solar day (24 hr) by about four minutes or 24 hr 4 min. Extended-sidereal time has about 367.25 days per year, one day more than the number of days in a year of sidereal time, 366.25. Thus each extended-sidereal day is shorter than a sidereal day (23 hr 56 min) by about four minutes or 23 hr 52 min. All years mentioned have the same length.

Complication (horology)

In horology, a complication refers to any feature in a mechanical timepiece beyond the simple display of hours and minutes. A timepiece indicating only hours and minutes is otherwise known as a simple movement. Common complications in commercial watches are day/date displays, alarms, chronographs (stopwatches), and automatic winding mechanisms.

The more complications in a mechanical watch, the more difficult it is to design, create, assemble, and repair. These stipulations do not apply or refer to quartz watches. A typical date-display chronograph may have up to 250 parts, while a particularly complex watch may have a thousand or more parts. Watches with several complications are referred to as grandes complications.

The initial ultra-complicated watches appeared due to watchmakers' ambitious attempts to unite a great number of functions in a case of a single timepiece. The mechanical clocks with a wide range of functions, including astronomical indications, suggested ideas to the developers of the first pocket watches. As a result, as early as in the 16th century, the horology world witnessed the appearance of numerous complicated and even ultra-complicated watches.

Ultra-complicated watches are produced in strictly limited numbers, with some built as unique instruments. Some watchmaking companies known for making ultra-complicated watches are Breguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin.


In astronomy and celestial navigation, an ephemeris (plural: ephemerides) gives the trajectory of naturally occurring astronomical objects as well as artificial satellites in the sky, i.e., the position (and possibly velocity) over time. The etymology is from Latin ephemeris, meaning 'diary' and from Greek, Modern εφημερίς (ephemeris), meaning 'diary, journal'. Historically, positions were given as printed tables of values, given at regular intervals of date and time. The calculation of these tables was one of the first applications of mechanical computers. Modern ephemerides are often computed electronically, from mathematical models of the motion of astronomical objects and the Earth. However, printed ephemerides are still produced, as they are useful when computational devices are not available.

The astronomical position calculated from an ephemeris is given in the spherical polar coordinate system of right ascension and declination. Some of the astronomical phenomena of interest to astronomers are eclipses, apparent retrograde motion/planetary stations, planetary ingresses, sidereal time, positions for the mean and true nodes of the moon, the phases of the Moon, and the positions of minor celestial bodies such as Chiron.

Ephemerides are used in celestial navigation and astronomy. They are also used by some astrologers.

Equation of time

The equation of time describes the discrepancy between two kinds of solar time. The word equation is used in the medieval sense of "reconcile a difference". The two times that differ are the apparent solar time, which directly tracks the diurnal motion of the Sun, and mean solar time, which tracks a theoretical mean Sun with uniform motion. Apparent solar time can be obtained by measurement of the current position (hour angle) of the Sun, as indicated (with limited accuracy) by a sundial. Mean solar time, for the same place, would be the time indicated by a steady clock set so that over the year its differences from apparent solar time would resolve to zero.The equation of time is the east or west component of the analemma, a curve representing the angular offset of the Sun from its mean position on the celestial sphere as viewed from Earth. The equation of time values for each day of the year, compiled by astronomical observatories, were widely listed in almanacs and ephemerides.

Equinox (celestial coordinates)

In astronomy, equinox is either of two places on the celestial sphere at which the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator. Although there are two intersections of the ecliptic with the celestial equator, by convention the equinox associated with the sun's ascending node is used as the origin of celestial coordinate systems and referred to simply as the equinox. In contrast to the common usage of spring and fall, or vernal and autumnal, equinoxes, the celestial coordinate system equinox is a direction in space rather than a moment in time.

The equinox moves because of perturbing forces, therefore in order to define a coordinate system it is necessary to specify the date for which the equinox is chosen. This date should not be confused with the epoch. Astronomical objects show real movements such as orbital and proper motions, and the epoch defines the date for which the position of an object applies. Therefore, a complete specification of the coordinates for an astronomical objects requires both the date of the equinox and of the epoch.The currently used standard equinox and epoch is J2000.0, which is January 1, 2000 at 12:00 TT. The prefix "J" indicates that it is a Julian epoch. The previous standard equinox and epoch was B1950.0, with the prefix "B" indicating it was a Besselian epoch. Before 1984 Besselian equinoxes and epochs were used. Since that time Julian equinoxes and epochs have been used.

Frohes Fest

Frohes Fest (German for "Merry Celebration" in relation to a Christmas celebration) is the second studio album released by the Neue Deutsche Härte band Unheilig. It was released in 2002 in two versions, a standard one-disc edition and a limited two-disc edition (which includes the Tannenbaum EP as a bonus disc).

The album has several traditional German Christmas songs, including the popular "O Tannenbaum" and "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht".

Hour angle

In astronomy and celestial navigation, the hour angle is one of the coordinates used in the equatorial coordinate system to give the direction of a point on the celestial sphere. The hour angle of a point is the angle between two planes: one containing Earth's axis and the zenith (the meridian plane), and the other containing Earth's axis and the given point (the hour circle passing through the point).

The angle may be expressed as negative east of the meridian plane and positive west of the meridian plane, or as positive westward from 0° to 360°. The angle may be measured in degrees or in time, with 24h = 360° exactly.

In astronomy, hour angle is defined as the angular distance on the celestial sphere measured westward along the celestial equator from the meridian to the hour circle passing through a point. It may be given in degrees, time, or rotations depending on the application.

In celestial navigation, the convention is to measure in degrees westward from the prime meridian (Greenwich hour angle, GHA), from the local meridian (local hour angle, LHA) or from the first point of Aries (sidereal hour angle, SHA).

The hour angle is paired with the declination to fully specify the location of a point on the celestial sphere in the equatorial coordinate system.

IAU (1976) System of Astronomical Constants

The International Astronomical Union at its XVIth General Assembly in Grenoble in 1976, accepted (Resolution No. 1


a whole new consistent set of astronomical constants

recommended for reduction of astronomical observations, and for computation of ephemerides. It superseded the IAU's previous recommendations of 1964 (see IAU (1964) System of Astronomical Constants), became in effect in the Astronomical Almanac from 1984 onward, and remained in use until the introduction of the IAU (2009) System of Astronomical Constants. In 1994

the IAU recognized that the parameters became outdated, but retained the 1976 set for sake of continuity, but also recommended to start maintaining a set of "current best estimates"

this "sub group for numerical standards" had published a list, which included new constants (like those for relativistic time scales)


The system of constants was prepared

by Commission 4 on ephemerides led by P. Kenneth Seidelmann (after whom asteroid 3217 Seidelmann is named).

At the time, a new standard epoch (J2000.0) was accepted; followed later

by a new reference system with fundamental catalogue (FK5), and expressions for precession of the equinoxes,

and in 1979 by new expressions for the relation between Universal Time and sidereal time

, and in 1979 and 1980 by a theory of nutation

. There were no reliable rotation elements for most planets, but a joint working group on Cartographic Coordinates and Rotational Elements was installed to compile recommended values


Incremental dating

Incremental dating techniques allow the construction of year-by-year annual chronologies, which can be temporally fixed (i.e., linked to the present day and thus calendar or sidereal time) or floating.

Archaeologists use tree-ring dating (dendrochronology) to determine the age of old pieces of wood. Trees usually add growth rings on a yearly basis, with the spacing of rings being wider in high growth years and narrower in low growth years. Patterns in tree-ring growth can be used to establish the age of old wood samples, and also give some hints to local climatic conditions. This technique is useful to about 9,000 years ago for samples from the western United States using overlapping tree-ring series from living and dead wood.

The Earth's orbital motions (inclination of the earth's axis on its orbit with respect to the sun, gyroscopic precession of the earth's axis every 26,000 years; free precession every 440 days, precession of earth orbit and orbital variations such as perihelion precession every 19,000 and 23,000 years) leave traces visible in the geological record. These changes provide a long-term sequence of climatic events, recorded as changes in the thickness of sediment layers (known as "varve analysis"—the term "varve" means a layer or layers of sediment. Typically, varve refers to lake or glacial sediment), as temperature induced changes in the isotopic ratios for oxygen isotopes in sediments, and in the relative abundance of fossils. Because these can be calibrated reliably over a period of 40 million years this provides an alternate verification to radiometric dating in cases where sufficient record exists to provide a reliable trace.Polarity reversals in the Earth's magnetic field have also been used to determine geologic time. Periodically, the magnetic field of the earth reverses leaving a magnetic signal in volcanic and sedimentary rocks. This signal can be detected and sequences recorded, and in the case of volcanic rocks, tied to radiometric dates.

Another technique used by archaeologists is to inspect the depth of penetration of water vapor into chipped obsidian (volcanic glass) artifacts. The water vapor creates a "hydration rind" in the obsidian, and so this approach is known as "hydration dating" or "obsidian dating", and is useful for determining dates as far back as 200,000 years.

Kepler Museum

The Kepler Museum is a museum of astronomy in Prague, Czech Republic, named for the German astronomer Johannes Kepler. It was founded in 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, with financial support from the Magistrate of the Capital City of Prague and Agentura ProVas, professional and organisational support from the Czech Astronomic Society and using premises owned by Jitka Steinwaldová.

The three circles in the logo of the Kepler Museum represent the planet Mars, the Earth, and the Sun, the bodies whose mutual positions were studied by Johannes Kepler while he was in the city. The entrance tickets to the museum feature the astronomic dial of the Prague Astronomical Clock with the exact moment of entry to the museum, with the same data also expressed in the Old Bohemian and in the Babylonian manner. The sidereal time is also included. The entrance tickets were designed by Vojtěch Sedláček, CEO of Agentura ProVás.

On 31 December 2017, the Kepler Museum in the Old Town closed after eight years, to be taken over by the National Technical Museum (NTM). The Kepler Museum exhibition is being transferred to NTM premises on Letná. The scheduled opening Summer 2018.

March equinox

The March equinox or Northward equinox is the equinox on the Earth when the subsolar point appears to leave the Southern Hemisphere and cross the celestial equator, heading northward as seen from Earth. The March equinox is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and as the autumnal equinox in the Southern.On the Gregorian calendar, the Northward equinox can occur as early as 19 March or as late as 21 March at Greenwich. For a common year the computed time slippage is about 5 hours 49 minutes later than the previous year, and for a leap year about 18 hours 11 minutes earlier than the previous year. Balancing the increases of the common years against the losses of the leap years keeps the calendar date of the March equinox from drifting more than one day from 20 March each year.

The March equinox may be taken to mark the beginning of spring and the end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere but marks the beginning of autumn and the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.In astronomy, the March equinox is the zero point of sidereal time and, consequently, right ascension. It also serves as a reference for calendars and celebrations in many human cultures and religions.

Meridian (astronomy)

In astronomy, the meridian is the great circle passing through the celestial poles, as well as the zenith and nadir of an observer's location. Consequently, it contains also the north and south points on the horizon, and it is perpendicular to the celestial equator and horizon. A celestial meridian is coplanar with the analogous terrestrial meridian projected onto the celestial sphere. Hence, the number of celestial meridians is also infinite.

The celestial meridian is undefined when the observer is at the geographical poles, since at these two points, the zenith and nadir are on the celestial poles, and any great circle passing through the celestial poles also passes through the zenith and nadir.

There are several ways to divide the meridian into semicircles. In the horizontal coordinate system, the observer's meridian is divided into halves terminated by the horizon's north and south points. The observer's upper meridian passes through the zenith while the lower meridian passes through the nadir. Another way, the meridian is divided into the local meridian, the semicircle that contains the observer's zenith and both celestial poles, and the opposite semicircle, which contains the nadir and both poles.

On any given (sidereal) day/night, a celestial object will appear to drift across, or transit, the observer's upper meridian as Earth rotates, since the meridian is fixed to the local horizon. At culmination, the object contacts the upper meridian and reaches its highest point in the sky. An object's right ascension and the local sidereal time can be used to determine the time of its culmination (see hour angle).

The term meridian comes from the Latin meridies, which means both "midday" and "south", as the celestial equator appears to tilt southward from the Northern Hemisphere.


Sidereal may refer to:

Sidereal time

Sidereal day

Sidereal month

Sidereal year

Sidereal period of an object orbiting a star

Sidereal and tropical astrology

Solar time

Solar time is a calculation of the passage of time based on the position of the Sun in the sky. The fundamental unit of solar time is the day. Two types of solar time are apparent solar time (sundial time) and mean solar time (clock time).

Star clock

A star clock (or nocturnal) is a method of using the stars to determine the time. This is accomplished by measuring the Big Dipper's position in the sky based on a standard clock, and then employing simple addition and subtraction. This method requires no tools; others use an astrolabe and a planisphere.

A clock's regulator can be adjusted so that it keeps the Mean Sidereal Time rate. When it is then set to an observer's Local Mean Sidereal Time then a star will transit the meridian (passing directly north or south) at the sidereal time of the star's Right Ascension.


TellStar was the first graphical astronomy program available for personal computers. It was sold from 1980-1986 by Scharf Software Services, and was available for the Apple II and IBM PC computers. It came in two versions; Level 1, which only plotted the Northern Hemisphere, and Level 2, which was able to plot the entire sky.TellStar could predict the position of celestial objects on any point of the earth at any time between 0 and 3000AD. Available celestial objects were planets, Messier objects, and stars from 3 different catalogs, totaling to over 600 entries.Plots could be done in 9 directions, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW and overhead (a view upwards the sky). Clicking on a star with a joystick or gamepad would give detailed information on each object, including declination, right ascension, magnitude, rising and setting times in sidereal time and Universal Time, and ranges of the year of visibility.


Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present, to the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is often referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions.Time has long been an important subject of study in religion, philosophy, and science, but defining it in a manner applicable to all fields without circularity has consistently eluded scholars.

Nevertheless, diverse fields such as business, industry, sports, the sciences, and the performing arts all incorporate some notion of time into their respective measuring systems.Time in physics is unambiguously operationally defined as "what a clock reads". See Units of Time. Time is one of the seven fundamental physical quantities in both the International System of Units and International System of Quantities. Time is used to define other quantities – such as velocity – so defining time in terms of such quantities would result in circularity of definition. An operational definition of time, wherein one says that observing a certain number of repetitions of one or another standard cyclical event (such as the passage of a free-swinging pendulum) constitutes one standard unit such as the second, is highly useful in the conduct of both advanced experiments and everyday affairs of life. The operational definition leaves aside the question whether there is something called time, apart from the counting activity just mentioned, that flows and that can be measured. Investigations of a single continuum called spacetime bring questions about space into questions about time, questions that have their roots in the works of early students of natural philosophy.

Temporal measurement has occupied scientists and technologists, and was a prime motivation in navigation and astronomy. Periodic events and periodic motion have long served as standards for units of time. Examples include the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, and the beat of a heart. Currently, the international unit of time, the second, is defined by measuring the electronic transition frequency of caesium atoms (see below). Time is also of significant social importance, having economic value ("time is money") as well as personal value, due to an awareness of the limited time in each day and in human life spans.

Time standard

A time standard is a specification for measuring time: either the rate at which time passes; or points in time; or both. In modern times, several time specifications have been officially recognized as standards, where formerly they were matters of custom and practice. An example of a kind of time standard can be a time scale, specifying a method for measuring divisions of time. A standard for civil time can specify both time intervals and time-of-day.

Standardized time measurements are made using a clock to count periods of some period changes, which may be either the changes of a natural phenomenon or of an artificial machine.

Historically, time standards were often based on the Earth's rotational period. From the late 18 century to the 19th century it was assumed that the Earth's daily rotational rate was constant. Astronomical observations of several kinds, including eclipse records, studied in the 19th century, raised suspicions that the rate at which Earth rotates is gradually slowing and also shows small-scale irregularities, and this was confirmed in the early twentieth century. Time standards based on Earth rotation were replaced (or initially supplemented) for astronomical use from 1952 onwards by an ephemeris time standard based on the Earth's orbital period and in practice on the motion of the Moon. The invention in 1955 of the caesium atomic clock has led to the replacement of older and purely astronomical time standards, for most practical purposes, by newer time standards based wholly or partly on atomic time.

Various types of second and day are used as the basic time interval for most time scales. Other intervals of time (minutes, hours, and years) are usually defined in terms of these two.

Unit of time

A unit of time or midst unit is any particular time interval, used as a standard way of measuring or expressing duration. The base unit of time in the International System of Units (SI), and by extension most of the Western world, is the second, defined as about 9 billion oscillations of the caesium atom. The exact modern definition, from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is:

The duration of 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.Historically units of time were defined by the movements of astronomical objects.

Sun based: the year was the time for the earth to revolve around the sun. Year-based units include the olympiad (four years), the lustrum (five years), the indiction (15 years), the decade, the century, and the millennium.

Moon based: the month was based on the moon's orbital period around the earth.

Earth based: the time it took for the earth to rotate on its own axis, as observed on a sundial. Units originally derived from this base include the week at seven days, and the fortnight at 14 days. Subdivisions of the day include the hour (1/24th of a day) which was further subdivided into minutes and finally seconds. The second became the international standard unit (SI units) for science.

Celestial sphere based: as in sidereal time, where the apparent movement of the stars and constellations across the sky is used to calculate the length of a year.These units do not have a consistent relationship with each other and require intercalation. For example, the year cannot be divided into 12 28-day months since 12 times 28 is 336, well short of 365. The lunar month (as defined by the moon's rotation) is not 28 days but 28.3 days. The year, defined in the Gregorian calendar as 365.24 days has to be adjusted with leap days and leap seconds. Consequently, these units are now all defined as multiples of seconds.

Units of time based on orders of magnitude of the second include the nanosecond and the millisecond.

Key concepts
Measurement and
  • Religion
  • Mythology
Philosophy of time
Human experience
and use of time
Time in
Related topics
International standards
Obsolete standards
Time in physics
Archaeology and geology
Astronomical chronology
Other units of time
Related topics

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.