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).
A tall pole vertically fixed in the ground casts a shadow on any sunny day. At one moment during the day, the shadow will point exactly north or south (or disappear when and if the Sun moves directly overhead). That instant is local apparent noon, or 12:00 local apparent time. About 24 hours later the shadow will again point north/south, the Sun seeming to have covered a 360-degree arc around the Earth's axis. When the Sun has covered exactly 15 degrees (1/24 of a circle, both angles being measured in a plane perpendicular to the Earth's axis), local apparent time is 13:00 exactly; after 15 more degrees it will be 14:00 exactly.
However, in September the Sun takes less time (as measured by an accurate clock) to make an apparent revolution than it does in December; 24 "hours" of solar time can be 21 seconds less or 29 seconds more than 24 hours of clock time. This is because the Earth's orbit is not perfectly circular, meaning that the Earth-Sun distance varies throughout the year, and because the Earth's axis is not perpendicular to the plane of its orbit (the so-called obliquity of the ecliptic).
The effect of this is that a clock running at a constant rate – e.g. completing the same number of pendulum swings in each hour – cannot follow the actual Sun; instead it follows an imaginary "mean Sun" that moves along the celestial equator at a constant rate that matches the real Sun's average rate over the year. This is "mean solar time", which is still not perfectly constant from one century to the next but is close enough for most purposes. Currently a mean solar day is about 86,400.002 SI seconds.
The two kinds of solar time (apparent solar time and mean solar time) are among the three kinds of time reckoning that were employed by astronomers until the 1950s. (The third kind of traditional time reckoning is sidereal time, which is based on the apparent motions of stars other than the Sun.) By the 1950s it had become clear that the Earth's rotation rate was not constant, so astronomers developed ephemeris time, a time scale based on the positions of solar system bodies in their orbits.
The apparent sun is the true sun as seen by an observer on Earth. Apparent solar time or true solar time is based on the apparent motion of the actual Sun. It is based on the apparent solar day, the interval between two successive returns of the Sun to the local meridian. Solar time can be crudely measured by a sundial. The equivalent on other planets is termed local true solar time (LTST).
The length of a solar day varies through the year, and the accumulated effect produces seasonal deviations of up to 16 minutes from the mean. The effect has two main causes. First, Earth's orbit is an ellipse, not a circle, so the Earth moves faster when it is nearest the Sun (perihelion) and slower when it is farthest from the Sun (aphelion) (see Kepler's laws of planetary motion). Second, due to Earth's axial tilt (known as the obliquity of the ecliptic), the Sun's annual motion is along a great circle (the ecliptic) that is tilted to Earth's celestial equator. When the Sun crosses the equator at both equinoxes, the Sun's daily shift (relative to the background stars) is at an angle to the equator, so the projection of this shift onto the equator is less than its average for the year; when the Sun is farthest from the equator at both solstices, the Sun's shift in position from one day to the next is parallel to the equator, so the projection onto the equator of this shift is larger than the average for the year (see tropical year). In June and December when the sun is farthest from the celestial equator a given shift along the ecliptic corresponds to a large shift at the equator. So apparent solar days are shorter in March and September than in June or December.
|Date||Duration in mean solar time|
|February 11||24 hours|
|March 26||24 hours − 18.1 seconds|
|May 14||24 hours|
|June 19||24 hours + 13.1 seconds|
|July 25/26||24 hours|
|September 16||24 hours − 21.3 seconds|
|November 2/3||24 hours|
|December 22||24 hours + 29.9 seconds|
These lengths will change slightly in a few years and significantly in thousands of years.
Mean solar time is the hour angle of the mean Sun plus 12 hours. This 12 hour offset comes from the decision to make each day start at midnight for civil purposes whereas the hour angle or the mean sun is measured from the zenith (noon). Currently this is realized with the UT1 time scale, constructed mathematically from very long baseline interferometry observations of the diurnal motions of radio sources located in other galaxies, and other observations. The duration of daylight varies during the year but the length of a mean solar day is nearly constant, unlike that of an apparent solar day. An apparent solar day can be 20 seconds shorter or 30 seconds longer than a mean solar day. Long or short days occur in succession, so the difference builds up until mean time is ahead of apparent time by about 14 minutes near February 6 and behind apparent time by about 16 minutes near November 3. The equation of time is this difference, which is cyclical and does not accumulate from year to year.
Mean time follows the mean sun. Jean Meeus describes the mean sun as follows:
Consider a first fictitious Sun travelling along the ecliptic with a constant speed and coinciding with the true sun at the perigee and apogee (when the Earth is in perihelion and aphelion, respectively). Then consider a second fictitious Sun travelling along the celestial equator at a constant speed and coinciding with the first fictitious Sun at the equinoxes. This second fictitious sun is the mean Sun..."
The length of the mean solar day is slowly increasing due to the tidal acceleration of the Moon by the Earth and the corresponding slowing of Earth's rotation by the Moon.
Many methods have been used to simulate mean solar time. The earliest were clepsydras or water clocks, used for almost four millennia from as early as the middle of the 2nd millennium BC until the early 2nd millennium. Before the middle of the 1st millennium BC, the water clocks were only adjusted to agree with the apparent solar day, thus were no better than the shadow cast by a gnomon (a vertical pole), except that they could be used at night.
But it has long been known that the Sun moves eastward relative to the fixed stars along the ecliptic. Since the middle of the first millennium BC the diurnal rotation of the fixed stars has been used to determine mean solar time, against which clocks were compared to determine their error rate. Babylonian astronomers knew of the equation of time and were correcting for it as well as the different rotation rate of the stars, sidereal time, to obtain a mean solar time much more accurate than their water clocks. This ideal mean solar time has been used ever since then to describe the motions of the planets, Moon, and Sun.
Mechanical clocks did not achieve the accuracy of Earth's "star clock" until the beginning of the 20th century. Today's atomic clocks have a much more constant rate than the Earth, but its star clock is still used to determine mean solar time. Since sometime in the late 20th century, Earth's rotation has been defined relative to an ensemble of extra-galactic radio sources and then converted to mean solar time by an adopted ratio. The difference between this calculated mean solar time and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) determines whether a leap second is needed. (The UTC time scale now runs on SI seconds, and the SI second, when adopted, was already a little shorter than the current value of the second of mean solar time.)
The meridian 135° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.
The 135th meridian west forms a great circle with the 45th meridian east.
The Alaska Time Zone is based on the mean solar time of this meridian.150th meridian west
The meridian 150° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America (entirely within the State of Alaska), the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.
In Antarctica, the meridian defines the eastern limit of New Zealand's territorial claim. The land further east is not claimed by any nation.
The 150th meridian west forms a great circle with the 30th meridian east.
The Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone is based on the mean solar time of this meridian.75th meridian west
The meridian 75° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, South America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.
The mean solar time of this meridian is the base for the Eastern Time Zone (UTC-5 during standard time).
Stations belonging to the US National Weather Service begin submitting weather reports when the mean solar time of this meridian is 8:00 am. Report collection ends 30–40 minutes later and the data is used to create the day's weather forecast.The 75th meridian west forms a great circle with the 105th meridian east.Alaska Time Zone
The Alaska Time Zone observes standard time by subtracting nine hours from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC−09:00). During daylight saving time its time offset is eight hours (UTC−08:00). The clock time in this zone is based on mean solar time at the 135th meridian west of the Greenwich Observatory.
The zone includes nearly all of the U.S. state of Alaska and is one hour behind the Pacific Time Zone.
standard time: Alaska Standard Time (AKST)
daylight saving time: Alaska Daylight Time (AKDT)The western Aleutian Islands observe Hawaii–Aleutian Time, one hour behind the remainder of the state.
Effective from 2007, the local time changes from AKST to AKDT at 02:00 LST to 03:00 LDT on the second Sunday in March and returns at 02:00 LDT to 01:00 LST on the first Sunday in November.Atlantic Time Zone
The Atlantic Time Zone is a geographical region that keeps standard time—called Atlantic Standard Time (AST)—by subtracting four hours from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), resulting in UTC−04:00. During part of the year, some portions of the zone observe daylight saving time, referred to as Atlantic Daylight Time (ADT), by moving their clocks forward one hour to result in UTC−03:00. The clock time in this zone is based on the mean solar time of the 60th meridian west of the Greenwich Observatory.
In Canada, the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are in this zone, though legally they calculate time specifically as an offset of four hours from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT–4) rather than from UTC. Small portions of Quebec (eastern Côte-Nord and the Magdalen Islands) also observe Atlantic Time. Officially, the entirety of Newfoundland and Labrador observes Newfoundland Standard Time, but in practice Atlantic Time is used in most of Labrador.
No portion of the continental United States currently uses Atlantic Time, although it is used by the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A number of New England states are considering a regional change to Atlantic Standard Time year-round (with no observance of daylight saving time), even though only a small portion of Maine lies to the east of the 67.5°W theoretical extent of this zone. Florida is in the process of enacting a similar change; in both cases any changes will need to be approved by the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Congress.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.Greenwich Mean Time
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, reckoned from midnight. At different times in the past, it has been calculated in different ways, including being calculated from noon; as a consequence, it cannot be used to specify a precise time unless a context is given.
English speakers often use GMT as a synonym for Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). For navigation, it is considered equivalent to UT1 (the modern form of mean solar time at 0° longitude); but this meaning can differ from UTC by up to 0.9 s. The term GMT should not thus be used for technical purposes.Because of Earth's uneven speed in its elliptical orbit and its axial tilt, noon (12:00:00) GMT is rarely the exact moment the sun crosses the Greenwich meridian and reaches its highest point in the sky there. This event may occur up to 16 minutes before or after noon GMT, a discrepancy calculated by the equation of time. Noon GMT is the annual average (i.e. "mean") moment of this event, which accounts for the word "mean" in "Greenwich Mean Time".
Originally, astronomers considered a GMT day to start at noon, while for almost everyone else it started at midnight. To avoid confusion, the name Universal Time was introduced to denote GMT as counted from midnight. Astronomers preferred the old convention to simplify their observational data, so that each night was logged under a single calendar date. Today Universal Time usually refers to UTC or UT1.The term "GMT" is especially used by bodies connected with the United Kingdom, such as the BBC World Service, the Royal Navy, the Met Office and others particularly in Arab countries, such as the Middle East Broadcasting Centre and OSN. It is a term commonly used in the United Kingdom and countries of the Commonwealth, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia; and in many other countries of the Eastern Hemisphere.Lighting control system
A lighting control system is an intelligent network based lighting control solution that incorporates communication between various system inputs and outputs related to lighting control with the use of one or more central computing devices. Lighting control systems are widely used on both indoor and outdoor lighting of commercial, industrial, and residential spaces. Lighting control systems serve to provide the right amount of light where and when it is needed.Lighting control systems are employed to maximize the energy savings from the lighting system, satisfy building codes, or comply with green building and energy conservation programs. Lighting control systems are often referred to under the term Smart Lighting.Mountain Time Zone
The Mountain Time Zone of North America keeps time by subtracting seven hours from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) when standard time is in effect, and by subtracting six hours during daylight saving time (UTC−06:00). The clock time in this zone is based on the mean solar time at the 105th meridian west of the Greenwich Observatory. In the United States, the exact specification for the location of time zones and the dividing lines between zones is set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations at 49 CFR 71.In the United States and Canada, this time zone is generically called Mountain Time (MT). Specifically, it is Mountain Standard Time (MST) when observing standard time, and Mountain Daylight Time (MDT) when observing daylight saving time. The term refers to how the Rocky Mountains, which range from northwestern Canada to the US state of New Mexico, are located almost entirely in the time zone. In Mexico, this time zone is known as the Zona Pacífico (Pacific Zone). In the US and Canada, the Mountain Time Zone is to the east of the Pacific Time Zone and to the west of the Central Time Zone.
In some areas, starting in 2007, the local time changes from MST to MDT at 2 am MST to 3 am MDT on the second Sunday in March and returns at 2 am MDT to 1 am MST on the first Sunday in November.
Sonora in Mexico and most of Arizona in the United States do not observe daylight saving time, and during the spring, summer, and autumn months they are on the same time as Pacific Daylight Time. The Navajo Nation, most of which lies within Arizona but extends into Utah and New Mexico (which do observe DST), does observe DST, although the Hopi Nation, as well as some Arizona state offices lying within the Navajo Nation, do not.
The largest city in the Mountain Time Zone is Phoenix, Arizona. The Phoenix metropolitan area is the largest metropolitan area in the zone; the next largest metropolitan area that observes Mountain Time is Denver, closely followed by the El Paso–Juárez area.
TV broadcasting in the Mountain Time Zone is typically tape-delayed one hour, so that shows match the broadcast times of the Central Time Zone (i.e. prime time begins at 7 pm MT following the same order of programming as the Central Time Zone).Nepal Standard Time
Nepal Standard Time (NPT) is the time zone for Nepal. With a time offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) of UTC+05:45 all over Nepal, it is one of only three time zones with a 45-minute offset from UTC. (The others are Chatham Island Standard Time, with an offset of UTC+12:45, and the unofficial Australian Central Western Time, with an offset of UTC+08:45.)NPT is an approximation of Kathmandu mean time, which is 5:41:16 ahead of UTC. The standard meridian passes through the peak of Gaurishankar mountain about 100 km east of Kathmandu.Nepal used local solar time until 1920, in Kathmandu UTC+5:41:16. In 1920, Nepal adopted Indian Standard Time, UTC+05:30. In 1986 Nepal advanced their clocks by 15 minutes, giving them a time zone of UTC+05:45.Newfoundland Time Zone
The Newfoundland Time Zone (NT) is a geographic region that keeps time by subtracting 3 1⁄2 hours from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) during standard time, resulting in UTC−03:30; or subtracting 2 1⁄2 hours during daylight saving time. The clock time in this zone is based on the mean solar time of the meridian 52 degrees and 30 arcminutes west of the Greenwich Observatory.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.Second
The second is the base unit of time in the International System of Units (SI), commonly understood and historically defined as 1⁄86400 of a day – this factor derived from the division of the day first into 24 hours, then to 60 minutes and finally to 60 seconds each. Analog clocks and watches often have sixty tick marks on their faces, representing seconds, and a "second hand" to mark the passage of time in seconds. Digital clocks and watches often have a two-digit seconds counter. The second is also part of several other units of measurement like meters per second for velocity, meters per second per second for acceleration, and per second for frequency.
Although the historical definition of the unit was based on this division of the Earth's rotation cycle, the formal definition in the International System of Units (SI) is a much steadier timekeeper: 1 second is defined to be exactly "the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom" (at a temperature of 0 K).
Because the Earth's rotation varies and is also slowing ever so slightly, a leap second is periodically added to clock time to keep clocks in sync with Earth's rotation.
Multiples of seconds are usually counted in hours and minutes. Fractions of a second are usually counted in tenths or hundredths. In scientific work, small fractions of a second are counted in milliseconds (thousandths), microseconds (millionths), nanoseconds (billionths), and sometimes smaller units of a second. An everyday experience with small fractions of a second is a 1-gigahertz microprocessor which has a cycle time of 1 nanosecond. Camera shutter speeds are often expressed in fractions of a second, such as 1⁄30 second or 1⁄1000 second.
Sexagesimal divisions of the day from a calendar based on astronomical observation have existed since the third millennium BC, though they were not seconds as we know them today. Small divisions of time could not be counted back then, so such divisions were figurative. The first timekeepers that could count seconds accurately were pendulum clocks invented in the 17th century. Starting in the 1950s, atomic clocks became better timekeepers than earth's rotation, and they continue to set the standard today.Sidereal time
Sidereal time 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".
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. 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.
The slightly longer "true" sidereal period is measured as the Earth Rotation Angle (ERA), formerly the stellar angle. 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.Sun-synchronous orbit
A Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO, also called a heliosynchronous orbit) is a nearly polar orbit around a planet, in which the satellite passes over any given point of the planet's surface at the same local mean solar time. More technically, it is an orbit arranged so that it precesses through one complete revolution each year, so it always maintains the same relationship with the Sun.Time in the United States
Time in the United States, by law, is divided into nine standard time zones covering the states and its possessions, with most of the United States observing daylight saving time (DST) for approximately the spring, summer, and fall months. The time zone boundaries and DST observance are regulated by the Department of Transportation. Official and highly precise timekeeping services (clocks) are provided by two federal agencies: the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (an agency of the Department of Commerce); and its military counterpart, the United States Naval Observatory (USNO). The clocks run by these services are kept synchronized with each other as well as with those of other international timekeeping organizations.
It is the combination of the time zone and daylight saving rules, along with the timekeeping services, which determines the legal civil time for any U.S. location at any moment.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.Timekeeping on Mars
Various schemes have been used or proposed for timekeeping on the planet Mars independently of Earth time and calendars.
Mars has an axial tilt and a rotation period similar to those of Earth. Thus, it experiences seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter much like Earth, and its day is about the same length. Its year is almost twice as long as Earth's, and its orbital eccentricity is considerably larger, which means among other things that the lengths of various Martian seasons differ considerably, and sundial time can diverge from clock time more than on Earth. The length of a Martian day is close to that of an Earth day, leading to the use of analogous time units.Universal Time
Universal Time (UT) is a time standard based on Earth's rotation. It is a modern continuation of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), i.e., the mean solar time on the Prime Meridian at Greenwich, England. In fact, the expression "Universal Time" is ambiguous (when accuracy of better than a few seconds is required), as there are several versions of it, the most commonly used being Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and UT1 (see § Versions). All of these versions of UT, except for UTC, are based on Earth's rotation relative to distant celestial objects (stars and quasars), but with a scaling factor and other adjustments to make them closer to solar time. UTC is based on International Atomic Time, with leap seconds added to keep it within 0.9 second of UT1.
|Philosophy of time|
and use of time
|Time in physics|
|Archaeology and geology|
|Other units of time|