Greenwich Mean Time

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Greenwich Mean Time
Standard World Time Zones.png
World map with the time zone highlighted
UTC offset
GMT UTC±00:00
Current time
07:58, 1 February 2020 GMT [refresh]
Time in Europe:
Western European Time / Greenwich Mean Time (UTC)
Western European Time / Greenwich Mean Time (UTC)
Western European Summer Time / British Summer Time / Irish Standard Time (UTC+1)
Central European Time (UTC+1)
Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)
Eastern European Time / Kaliningrad Time (UTC+2)
Eastern European Time (UTC+2)
Eastern European Summer Time (UTC+3)
Further-eastern European Time / Moscow Time / Turkey Time (UTC+3)
pale colours indicate where standard time is observed all year; dark colours indicate where a summer time is observed Time zones of Europe.svg
Time in Europe :
Western European Time / Greenwich Mean Time (UTC)
Western European Time / Greenwich Mean Time (UTC)
Western European Summer Time / British Summer Time / Irish Standard Time (UTC+1)
Central European Time (UTC+1)
Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)
Eastern European Time / Kaliningrad Time (UTC+2)
Eastern European Time (UTC+2)
Eastern European Summer Time (UTC+3)
Further-eastern European Time / Moscow Time / Turkey Time (UTC+3)
pale colours indicate where standard time is observed all year; dark colours indicate where a summer time is observed
Time zones of Africa:

-01:00
Cape Verde Time
+-00:00
Greenwich Mean Time
+01:00
West Africa Time
+02:00
Central Africa Time
South African Standard Time
+03:00
East Africa Time
+04:00
Mauritius Time
Seychelles Time
The islands of Cape Verde are to the west of the African mainland.
Mauritius and the Seychelles are to the east and north-east of Madagascar respectively. TimeZones-Africa.svg
Time zones of Africa:
  -01:00   Cape Verde Time
  ±00:00   Greenwich Mean Time
  +01:00   West Africa Time
  +02:00  
  +03:00   East Africa Time
  +04:00  
The islands of Cape Verde are to the west of the African mainland.
Mauritius and the Seychelles are to the east and north-east of Madagascar respectively.

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; [1] as a consequence, it cannot be used to specify a precise time unless a context is given.

Contents

English speakers often use GMT as a synonym for Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). [2] 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 certain technical purposes requiring precision. [3]

Because of Earth's uneven angular velocity 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. [4] 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. [5]

The term "GMT" is especially used by bodies connected with the United Kingdom, such as the BBC World Service, the Royal Navy, and 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.

History

Greenwich clock with standard measurements Greenwich clock.jpg
Greenwich clock with standard measurements

As the United Kingdom developed into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one chronometer on GMT to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was considered to have longitude zero degrees, by a convention adopted in the International Meridian Conference of 1884. Synchronisation of the chronometer on GMT did not affect shipboard time, which was still solar time. But this practice, combined with mariners from other nations drawing from Nevil Maskelyne's method of lunar distances based on observations at Greenwich, led to GMT being used worldwide as a standard time independent of location. Most time zones were based upon GMT, as an offset of a number of hours (and possibly half or quarter hours) "ahead of GMT" or "behind GMT".

Greenwich Mean Time was adopted across the island of Great Britain by the Railway Clearing House in 1847 and by almost all railway companies by the following year, from which the term "railway time" is derived. It was gradually adopted for other purposes, but a legal case in 1858 held "local mean time" to be the official time. [6] On 14 May 1880, a letter signed by "Clerk to Justices" appeared in The Times, stating that "Greenwich time is now kept almost throughout England, but it appears that Greenwich time is not legal time. For example, our polling booths were opened, say, at 8 13 and closed at 4 13 p.m." [7] [8] This was changed later in 1880, when Greenwich Mean Time was legally adopted throughout the island of Great Britain. GMT was adopted in the Isle of Man in 1883, in Jersey in 1898 and in Guernsey in 1913. Ireland adopted GMT in 1916, supplanting Dublin Mean Time. [9] Hourly time signals from Greenwich Observatory were first broadcast on 5 February 1924, rendering the time ball at the observatory redundant.

The daily rotation of the Earth is irregular (see ΔT) and has a slowing trend; therefore atomic clocks constitute a much more stable timebase. On 1 January 1972, GMT was superseded as the international civil time standard by Coordinated Universal Time, maintained by an ensemble of atomic clocks around the world. Universal Time (UT), a term introduced in 1928, initially represented mean time at Greenwich determined in the traditional way to accord with the originally defined universal day; from 1 January 1956 (as decided by the International Astronomical Union in Dublin in 1955, at the initiative of William Markowitz) this "raw" form of UT was re-labelled UT0 and effectively superseded by refined forms UT1 (UT0 equalised for the effects of polar wandering) [10] and UT2 (UT1 further equalised for annual seasonal variations in Earth rotation rate).

Indeed, even the Greenwich meridian itself is not quite what it used to be—defined by "the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory at Greenwich". Although that instrument still survives in working order, it is no longer in use and now the meridian of origin of the world's longitude and time is not strictly defined in material form but from a statistical solution resulting from observations of all time-determination stations which the BIPM takes into account when co-ordinating the world's time signals. Nevertheless, the line in the old observatory's courtyard today differs no more than a few metres from that imaginary line which is now the prime meridian of the world.

Howse, D. (1997). Greenwich time and the longitude. London: Philip Wilson.

Ambiguity in the definition of GMT

Historically, GMT has been used with two different conventions for numbering hours. The long-standing astronomical convention, dating from the work of Ptolemy, was to refer to noon as zero hours (see Julian day). This contrasted with the civil convention of referring to midnight as zero hours dating from the Roman Empire. The latter convention was adopted on and after 1 January 1925 for astronomical purposes, resulting in a discontinuity of 12 hours, or half a day. The instant that was designated "December 31.5 GMT" in 1924 almanacs became "January 1.0 GMT" in 1925 almanacs. The term Greenwich Mean Astronomical Time (GMAT) was introduced to unambiguously refer to the previous noon-based astronomical convention for GMT. [11] The more specific terms UT and UTC do not share this ambiguity, always referring to midnight as zero hours.

GMT in legislation

United Kingdom

Legally, the civil time used in the UK is called "Greenwich mean time" (without capitalisation), according to the Interpretation Act 1978, with an exception made for those periods when the Summer Time Act 1972 orders an hour's shift for daylight saving. The Interpretation Act 1978, section 9, provides that whenever an expression of time occurs in an Act, the time referred to shall (unless otherwise specifically stated) be held to be Greenwich mean time. Under subsection 23(3), the same rule applies to deeds and other instruments. [9]

During the experiment of 1968 to 1971, when the British Isles did not revert to Greenwich Mean Time during the winter, the all-year British Summer Time was called British Standard Time (BST).

In the UK, UTC+00:00 is disseminated to the general public in winter and UTC+01:00 in summer. [12] [4]

BBC radio stations broadcast the "six pips" of the Greenwich Time Signal. It is named from its original generation at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, is aligned to Coordinated Universal Time, and called either Greenwich Mean Time or British Summer Time as appropriate for the time of year.

Other countries

Several countries define their local time by reference to Greenwich Mean Time. [13] [14] Some examples are:

Time zone

Greenwich Mean Time is used as standard time in the following countries and areas, which also advance their clocks one hour (GMT+1) in summer.

Greenwich Mean Time is used as standard time all year round in the following countries and areas:

ColourLegal time vs local mean time
1 h ± 30 m behind
0 h ± 30 m
1 h ± 30 m ahead
2 h ± 30 m ahead
3 h ± 30 m ahead
European winter Tzdiff-Europe-winter.png
European winter
European summer Tzdiff-Europe-summer.png
European summer

Since legal, political, social and economic criteria, in addition to physical or geographical criteria, are used in the drawing of time zones, actual time zones do not precisely adhere to meridian lines. The "GMT" time zone, were it determined purely by longitude, would consist of the area between meridians 7°30'W and 7°30'E. However, in much of Western and Central Europe, despite lying between those two meridians, UTC+1 is used; similarly, there are European areas that use UTC, even though their physical time zone is UTC−1 (e.g. most of Portugal), or UTC−2 (the westernmost part of Iceland). Because the UTC time zone in Europe is shifted to the west, Lowestoft in the United Kingdom, at only 1°45'E, is the easternmost settlement in Europe in which UTC is applied. Following is a list of the incongruencies:

Countries and areas west of 22°30'W ("physical" UTC−2) that use UTC

Countries and areas west of 7°30'W ("physical" UTC−1) that use UTC

This arch that stretches over a highway indicates the prime meridian in Spain. Greenwich mean time line.jpg
This arch that stretches over a highway indicates the prime meridian in Spain.

Countries (mostly) between meridians 7°30'W and 7°30'E ("physical" UTC) that use UTC+1

See also

Notes

  1. "Time scales". UCO Lick. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  2. "Coordinated Universal Time". Oxford Dictionaries . Oxford University Press.
  3. Hilton and McCarthy 2013, pp. 231–2.
  4. 1 2 McCarthy & Seidelmann 2009, p. 17.
  5. Astronomical Almanac Online 2015, Glossary s.v. "Universal Time".
  6. Howse 1997, p. 114.
  7. CLERK TO JUSTICES. "Time, Actual And Legal". Times, London, England, 14 May 1880: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 18 August 2015.
  8. Bartky, Ian R. (2007). One Time Fits All: The Campaigns for Global Uniformity. Stanford University Press. p. 134. ISBN   0804756422 . Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  9. 1 2 Myers (2007).
  10. UT1 as explained on IERS page
  11. Astronomical Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac. University Science Books. 1992. p. 76. ISBN   0-935702-68-7.
  12. Howse 1997, p. 157.
  13. 1 2 Dumortier, Hannelore, & Loncke (n.d.)
  14. Seago & Seidelmann (2011).
  15. Standard Time Act, 1968.
  16. "BOE Orden sobre adelanto de la hora legal en 60 minutos" . Retrieved 2 December 2008.[ permanent dead link ]
  17. "B.O.E. #68 03/08/1940 p.1675" . Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  18. 1 2 "B.O.E. #68 03/08/1940 p.1676" . Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  19. "Hábitos y horarios españoles". Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2008.

Related Research Articles

Time zone Region on Earth that has a uniform standard time for legal, commercial, and social purposes

A time zone is a region of the globe that observes a uniform standard time for legal, commercial, and social purposes. Time zones tend to follow the boundaries of countries and their subdivisions instead of longitude, because it is convenient for areas in close commercial or other communication to keep the same time.

Julian day is the continuous count of days since the beginning of the Julian Period and is used primarily by astronomers, and in software for easily calculating elapsed days between two events.

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.

Universal Time (UT) is a time standard based on Earth's rotation. There are several versions of Universal Time, which differ by up to a few seconds. The most commonly used are Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and UT1. All of these versions of UT, except for UTC, are based on Earth's rotation relative to distant celestial objects, 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.

Royal Observatory, Greenwich observatory in Greenwich, London, UK

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich is an observatory situated on a hill in Greenwich Park, overlooking the River Thames. It played a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation, and because the prime meridian passes through it, it gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time. The ROG has the IAU observatory code of 000, the first in the list. ROG, the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House and Cutty Sark are collectively designated Royal Museums Greenwich.

Sidereal time time standard

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".

Prime meridian A line of longitude, at which longitude is defined to be 0°

A prime meridian is the meridian in a geographic coordinate system at which longitude is defined to be 0°. Together, a prime meridian and its anti-meridian form a great circle. This great circle divides a spheroid into two hemispheres. If one uses directions of East and West from a defined prime meridian, then they can be called the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere.

International Meridian Conference

The International Meridian Conference was a conference held in October 1884 in Washington, D.C., in the United States, to determine a prime meridian for international use. The conference was held at the request of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur. The subject to discuss was the choice of "a meridian to be employed as a common zero of longitude and standard of time reckoning throughout the world". It resulted in the recommendation of the Greenwich Meridian as the international standard for zero degrees longitude.

Prime meridian (Greenwich) meridian

The future prime meridian based at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in London, England, was established by Sir George Airy in 1851. By 1884, over two-thirds of all ships and tonnage used it as the reference meridian on their charts and maps. In October of that year, at the behest of US President Chester A. Arthur, 41 delegates from 25 nations met in Washington, D.C., United States, for the International Meridian Conference. This conference selected the meridian passing through Greenwich as the official prime meridian due to its popularity. However, France abstained from the vote, and French maps continued to use the Paris meridian for several decades. In the 18th century, London lexicographer Malachy Postlethwayt published his African maps showing the "Meridian of London" intersecting the Equator a few degrees west of the later meridian and Accra, Ghana.

Time in the United States timekeeping in the USA

Time in the United States, by law, is divided into nine standard time zones covering the states, territories and other US 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) ; and 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.

Standard time The synchronization of clocks within a geographical area or region

Standard time is the synchronization of clocks within a geographical area or region to a single time standard, rather than using solar time or a locally chosen meridian (longitude) to establish a local mean time standard. Generally, standard time agrees with the local mean time at some meridian that passes through the region, often near the center of the region. Historically, the concept was established during the 19th century to aid weather forecasting and train travel. Applied globally in the 20th century, the geographical areas became extended around evenly spaced meridians into time zones which (usually) centered on them. The standard time set in each time zone has come to be defined in terms of offsets from Universal Time. In regions where daylight saving time is used, that time is defined by another offset, from the standard time in its applicable time zones.

Washington Mean Time was the time at the meridian through the center of the old dome atop the main building at the old US Naval Observatory at Washington, D.C. This Washington meridian was defined on 28 September 1850 by the United States Congress. The Old Naval Observatory is now on the grounds of the United States Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, southwest of the corner of E and 23rd Streets in Foggy Bottom. Washington Mean Time was sometimes called Washington Meridian Time. It was never used as the basis of any time zone, although it was the local mean time of the city of Washington before the advent of American time zones on 18 November 1883. It was also used to time astronomical events by users of the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, first published for the year 1855.

Hong Kong Time time zone

Hong Kong Time is the time in Hong Kong, observed at UTC+08:00 all year round. The Hong Kong Observatory is the official timekeeper of the Hong Kong Time.

In modern usage, civil time refers to statutory time scales designated by civilian authorities, or to local time indicated by clocks. Modern civil time is generally standard time in a time zone at a fixed offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) or from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), possibly adjusted by daylight saving time during part of the year. UTC is calculated by reference to atomic clocks, and was adopted in 1972. Older systems use telescope observations.

Longitude by chronometer is a method, in navigation, of determining longitude using a marine chronometer, which was developed by John Harrison during the first half of the eighteenth century. It is an astronomical method of calculating the longitude at which a position line, drawn from a sight by sextant of any celestial body, crosses the observer's assumed latitude. In order to calculate the position line, the time of the sight must be known so that the celestial position i.e. the Greenwich Hour Angle and Declination, of the observed celestial body is known. All that can be derived from a single sight is a single position line, which can be achieved at any time during daylight when both the sea horizon and the sun are visible. To achieve a fix, more than one celestial body and the sea horizon must be visible. This is usually only possible at dawn and dusk.

UTC±00:00 identifier for the UTC

UTC±00:00 is the following time:

Nautical time refers to the systems used by ships on high seas to express their local time. Nautical time keeping dates back to the early 20th century as a standard way to keep time at sea, although it largely only applied to military fleets pre-World War 2. This time-keeping method is only used for radio communications and to account for slight inaccuracies that using Greenwich Standard Time (GST) may lead to during navigation of the high seas. Nautical time zones are split into one hour intervals for every 15 degree change in a ship's longitudinal coordinate. This is typically only used for trans-oceanic travel, as captains will often not change the timekeeping for short distances such as channels or inland seas.

The Nautical Almanac has been the familiar name for a series of official British almanacs published under various titles since the first issue of The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris, for 1767: this was the first nautical almanac to contain data dedicated to the convenient determination of longitude at sea. It was originally published from the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England. A detailed account of how the publication was produced in its earliest years has been published by the National Maritime Museum.

Coordinated Universal Time Primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time

Coordinated Universal Time 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, the term Greenwich Mean Time is used.

IERS Reference Meridian International prime meridian used for GPS and other systems

The IERS Reference Meridian (IRM), also called the International Reference Meridian, is the prime meridian 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).

References