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10.4: About Time- Local and Universal Time

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  • Two important concepts, related to latitude and (especially) longitude are Local time (LT) and Universal time (UT).

    Local time is actually a measure of the position of the Sun relative to a locality. At 12 noon local time the Sun passes to the south and is furthest from the horizon (northern hemisphere). Somewhere around 6 am it rises, and around 6 pm it sets. Local time is what you and I use to regulate our lives locally, our work times, meals and sleep-times.

    But suppose we wanted to time an astronomical event — e.g. the time when the 1987 supernova was first detected. For that we need a single agreed-on clock, marking time world-wide, not tied to our locality. That is universal time (UT), which can be defined (with some slight imprecision, no concern here) as the local time in Greenwich, England, at the zero meridian.