Time will literally stand still tonight – for one whole second.
Today, June 30, will see us experience what astrophysicists call a ‘leap second’, which occur occasionally to compensate for the slowing of the Earth’s rotation.
This year the extra second will be added at 00:59:60 on Wednesday 1 July to allow the world’s clocks to catch up with the Earth to make sure they are as accurate as possible.
Leap seconds were first introduced in 1972 and have been used 25 times.
Rory McEvoy, Curator of Horology, Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: “The Earth’s speed of rotation has a tendency to slow – caused principally because of the relationship between Earth and the moon – but it can speed up. There is a possibility that a negative leap second could be added to UTC.”
The most recent was in 2012, when reports suggested it played havoc with the internet.
Websites including Reddit, Yelp, LinkedIn went down for a period of time.
There are fears the same could happen again, with financial institutions concerned about potential impact on stock markets also wary of mishaps, particularly in Australia where the leap second will happen at 10am on July 1.
The potential problems mean there are vocal opponents of introducing the leap second, but scientists say it is essential for research purposes.
Members of the International Telecommunications Union, which sets the world’s clocks, will meet later this year to decide whether to scrap leap seconds completely.