Since the 1960s, scientists have used atomic clocks to precisely monitor time. However, on June 29, scientists watching these clocks noticed an anomaly: it was Earth’s shortest day in recorded history.
According to a report by timeanddate, on June 29, Earth completed a rotation in 1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours, highlighting a recent trend that has seen the planet’s rotation speed up. In 2020, the Earth achieved its 28 shortest days since daily measurements began.
James Webb Space Telescope Images
It’s unclear why this is happening, though scientists have a few guesses. Many have suggested this could be attributed to things like tides, climate, or other earth processes.
As pointed out by timeanddate, at next week’s Asia Oceania Geosciences Society meeting, Leonid Zotov, Christian Bizouard and Nikolay Sidorenkov are slated to explain another potential reason for this change: a variation in the Chandler wobble, which is the small movement of Earth’s poles across the globe.
“The normal amplitude of the Chandler wobble is about three to four meters at Earth’s surface,” Dr. Zotov said, “but from 2017 to 2020 it disappeared.”
If this trend continues, it could lead to what is known as the “negative leap second” in which clocks would skip a second in order for civil time to keep pace with solar time. As timeanddate points out, this could potentially have repercussions for IT systems that rely on exact time measurements.
In other space and science news, NASA recently revealed the first images from the James Webb Telescope, which captured “the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date.” For those eager to get closer to the gorgeous galaxies that this telescope captured, we’re also now in an era where space tourism is possible, though it has quite an expensive price tag.
Blogroll image credit: Bernt Ove Moss / Getty Images
Amelia Zollner is a freelance writer at IGN who loves all things indie and Nintendo. Outside of IGN, they’ve contributed to sites like Polygon and Rock Paper Shotgun. Find them on Twitter: @ameliazollner.