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The Terrestrial Time (TT)

The XXIst General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union,


a) that the time scales used for dating events observed from the surface of the Earth and for terrestrial metrology should have as the unit of measurement the SI second, as realized by terrestrial time standards,

b) the definition of the International Atomic Time, TAI, approved by the 14th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures (1971) and completed by a declaration of the 9th session of the Comité Consultatif pour la Définition de la Seconde (1980),

recommends that,

1) the time reference for apparent geocentric ephemerides be Terrestrial Time, TT,

2) TT be a time scale differing from TCG of Recommendation III by a constant rate, the unit of measurement of TT being chosen so that it agrees with the SI second on the geoid,

3) at instant 1977 January 1, 0h 0m 0s TAI exactly, TT have the reading 1977 January 1, 0h 0m 32.184s exactly.

Notes for Recommendation IV

1. The basis of the measurement of time on the Earth is International Atomic Time (TAI) which is made available by the dissemination of corrections to be added to the readings of national time scales and clocks. The time scale TAI was defined by the 59th session of the Comité International des Poids et Mesures (1970) and approved by the 14th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures (1971) as a realized time scale. As the errors in the realization of TAI are not always negligible, it has been found necessary to define an ideal form of TAI, apart from the 32.184s offset, now designated Terrestrial Time, TT.

2. The time scale TAI is established and disseminated according to the principle of coordinate synchronization, in the geocentric coordinate sytem, as explained in CCDS, 9th Session (1980) and in Reports of the CCIR, 1990, annex to Volume VII (1990).

3. In order to define TT it is necessary to define the coordinate system precisely, by the metric form, to which it belongs. To be consistent with the uncertainties of the frequency of the best standards, it is at present (1991) sufficient to use the relativistic metric given in Recommendation I.

4. For ensuring an approximate continuity with the previous time arguments of ephemerides, Ephemeris Time, ET, a time offset is introduced so that TT - TAI = 32.184s exactly at 1977 January 1, 0h TAI. This date corresponds to the implementation of a steering process of the TAI frequency, introduced so that the TAI unit of measurement remains in close agreement with the best realizations of the SI second on the geoid. TT can be considered as equivalent to TDT as defined by IAU Recommendation 5 (1976) of Commissions 4, 8 and 31, and Recommendation 5 (1979) of Commissions 4, 19 and 31.

5. The divergence between TAI and TT is a consequence of the physical defects of atomic time standards. In the interval 1977-1990, in addition to the constant offset of 32.184s, the deviation probably remained within the approximate limits of +/- 10 microseconds. It is expected to increase more slowly in the future as a consequence of improvements in time standards. In many cases, especially for the publication of ephemerides, this deviation is negligible. In such cases, it can be stated that the argument of the ephemerides is TAI + 32.184s.

6. Terrestrial Time differs from TCG of Recommendation III by a scaling factor, in seconds:

TCG - TT = L_G x (JD - 2443144.5) x 86400.

The present estimate of the value of L_G is 6.969291 x 10**-10 (+/- 3 x 10 **-16). The numerical value is derived from the latest estimate of gravitational potential on the geoid, W = 62636860 (+/- 30) m**2/s**2 (Chovitz, Bulletin Géodesique, 62, 359, 1988). The two time scales are distinguished by different names to avoid scaling errors. The relationship between L_B and L_C of Recommendation III, notes 1 and 2, and L_G is, L_B = L_C + L_G.

7. The unit of measurement of TT is the SI second on the geoid. The usual multiples, such as the TT day of 86400 SI seconds on the geoid and the TT Julian century of 36525 TT days, can be used provided that the reference to TT be clearly indicated whenever ambiguity may arise. Corresponding time intervals of TAI are in agreement with the TT intervals within the uncertainties of the primary atomic standards (e.g., within +/- 2 x 10**-14 in relative value during 1990).

8. Markers of the TT scale can follow any date system based upon the second, e.g., the usual calendar date or the Julian Date, provided that the reference to TT be clearly indicated whenever ambiguity may arise. 9. It is suggested that realizations of TT be designated by TT(xxx) where xxx is an identifier. In most cases a convenient approximation is:

TT(TAI) = TAI + 32.184s.

However, in some applications it may be advantageous to use other realizations. The BIPM, for example, has issued time scales such as= TT(BIPM90).

Created: 1 Jan 2001. Text provided by the former Central Bureau.

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