STANDARD TIME FOR MOON (Syllabus GS Paper 1 – Geography)

News-CRUX-10     11th April 2024        
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Context: The US White House recently instructed NASA to develop a standardized time system for the Moon, facilitating coordination among international bodies and private enterprises operating on its surface.

Earth’s time Standard Work

  • Coordinated Universal Time (UTC): Most clocks and time zones worldwide are based on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), established by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris, France.
  • Atomic Clocks: UTC is maintained through a weighted average of over 400 atomic clocks globally. These clocks measure time based on the resonant frequencies of atoms like cesium-133.
  • Definition of a Second: In atomic time, a second is defined as the duration in which a cesium atom vibrates 9,192,631,770 times. Atomic clocks provide highly stable and precise measurements of time.
  • Local Time Calculation: Countries determine their local time by adjusting UTC based on their position relative to the prime meridian (0 degrees longitude), also known as the Greenwich meridian.
  • Time Zone Differences: Countries to the west of the Greenwich meridian subtract hours from UTC, while those to the east add hours. This adjustment accounts for the Earth's rotation and the division of its surface into time zones.

Why Establish a Time Standard for the Moon?

  • Diverse Time Experience: Time behaves differently on the Moon compared to Earth due to the effects of gravity, as per Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.
  • Relativity Impact: Gravity's influence causes time to flow slightly faster on the Moon than on Earth, leading to a need for a specific time standard.
  • Incompatibility with UTC: The Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) used on Earth cannot accurately measure time on the Moon due to this relativistic difference.