Re: [LEAPSECS] The opportunity of leap seconds

From: Peter Bunclark <>
Date: Sun, 8 Jan 2006 11:27:30 +0000 (GMT)

On Sat, 7 Jan 2006, Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:
> What Astronomers use UTC for, in your own many times repeated words,
> is "a convenient approximation of UT1", and consequently it follows
> that if instead of an approximation astronomers used the Real Thing,
> leap seconds could harmlessly be removed from UTC.
Too simple; many old telescopes, with equatorial mounts, such as the
historic telescopes at the Institute of Astronomy where I work, do indeed
use UTC as a UT1 approximation. The time error involved in this is a small
offset in one axis which you calibrate out on a "clock star".

Research-quality telescopes, in particular all the ones built in the last
few decades on alt-azimuth mounts, do of course use UT1; a 0.9s error
would be a complex ~10 arcsec error in both axes and give a quite useless
pointing performance. However, UTC is often used as a UT1 delivery
system; because it's an international standard, and is widely available,
and DUT1 is guarenteed to be less than 0.9s, it's a natural choice for
supplier of time. Interestingly, because control algorithms tend to be
rigorous, a large DUT1 probably would be ok in itself (there would be a
cost involved in checking that this would be so) but certainly in the case
of a couple of telescope control systems of which I have the required
knowledge, the DUT1 input method does a 0.9 second range check.

Received on Sun Jan 08 2006 - 03:28:04 PST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Sat Sep 04 2010 - 09:44:55 PDT