Astrophysics (Index)About

terrestrial time

(current measure of time for astronomical observations on Earth)

Terrestrial time (TT) is a time standard (or type of time standard) defined for describing astronomical observations from Earth, that allows simple arithmetic to determine time intervals, precise to the millisecond level. Some astronomical observations require that precision, e.g., observations of moving planets and stars and observations of pulsar pulses and glitches. The J2000.0, B1950.0, and B1900.0 are defined in terms of terrestrial time.

Such an Earth-based time standard is non-trivial and terrestrial time is the latest standard by the International Astronomical Union to provide one. Other time standards are also in use that have goals other than "time as measured on Earth": observations on Earth are complicated by its orbit and the finite speed of light: light from a nearby star viewed from Earth will reach Earth later by minutes if Earth is currently at the point of its orbit further from the star (Roemer delay), and the timing of actions off Earth make more sense if the effect of such delays is eliminated.

Terrestrial time uses the SI second, counting them from a point in time chosen to match that of other standards, but since then, time values based upon the various standards (others being non-Earth-based) drift compared to each other, a consequence of relativity.

The current method of tracking terrestrial time is International Atomic Time (TAI), a time standard based upon averaging a considerable number of atomic clocks. Geocentric Coordinate Time (TGC) is a related time standard: a theoretical time counting SI seconds at the point of the Earth's center of mass, but as if the Earth were not there, i.e., no effect of Earth's gravity. It is used to describe Earth-centric orbits and timing such as that of the Moon and artificial satellites.

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Referenced by pages:
epoch J2000.0
time standard