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Unified standard of time for the moon

Published: 11th Apr, 2024

Unified standard of time for the moon


NASA has been directed to establish a unified standard of time for the moon (Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC)) and other celestial bodies, the same way as Earth has.

What is a time standard?

  • A time standard is a specification for measuring time intervals, defining the units of time (e.g., seconds, minutes, hours) and providing a reference for timekeeping.
  • Time standards are not similar to time zones, as a time zone is a region of the Earth that has the same standard time. 
  • Need of time standard: The need for establishing a time standard for the Moon is paramount as several countries plan to send astronauts to the lunar surface in the latter half of the 2020s. 
    • The Moon requires a time standard due to factors such as differing gravitational forces and other celestial influences, which alter the time compared to Earth.
    • Time on the Moon moves a tad quicker — 7 microseconds every day — compared to the Earth.

Working of Earth’s Time Standard

  • Time Zones are a geographical world globe division of 15each, starting at Greenwich, in England, created to help people know what time is it now in another part of the world.
  • The local time within a time zone is defined by its offset (difference) from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the world's time standard.
    • UTC is essentially an internationally agreed upon standard for world time.
  • It is tracked by a weighted average of more than 400 atomic clocks placed in different parts of the globe.
  • Atomic clocks measure time in terms of the resonant frequencies — the natural frequency of an object where it tends to vibrate at a higher amplitude — of atoms such as cesium-133.
    • In atomic time, a second is defined as the period in which a caesium atom vibrates 9,192,631,770 times. As the vibration rates at which atoms absorb energy are highly stable and ultra-accurate.
  • UTC time changes 1 hour forward and backward corresponding to a 1-hour difference in mean solar time for every 15 degrees east or west of the prime meridian (0° longitude) in Greenwich, London, United Kingdom.
  • The offset is expressed as either UTC- or UTC+ and the number of hours and minutes.

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