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We’ve seen Moon Shoes, the Moonwalk, Sailor Moon, and Mooncakes. What about Moon Time? Well, it’s something international space agencies are actively discussing.
Should we have a time zone based on moon time?
With so much excitement going on outside of Earth, many are looking to the stars for the answers to all of life’s orbital questions. Some wonder if there’s life on Mars. Others ask, “Should we set a time zone specific to the moon?”
It’s a legitimate question when considering the complexities of organizing over 100 lunar missions over the next decade or the intense coordination of satellite launches. NASA centers and facilities exist in nearly every United States time zone.
We can barely keep our Zoom calls straight between Pacific and Eastern times, so it may be better suited for those making major scientific advancements. But we’ve run time zones based on the sun’s shadows before (more on that later), so why not try moon time?
Time Zones TL;DR
Time zones are divisions of the Earth’s surface into regions with the same standard time. Earth is divided into 24 time zones, each being roughly 15 degrees longitude wide. They’re usually defined by the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) offset, which is the difference between the local time and UTC.
This allows people worldwide to synchronize their clocks — at least, in theory.
Time zones in the U.S.
Time zones in the United States follow a general pattern, with the Eastern Time Zone on the east coast, Central Time Zone in the middle, Mountain Time Zone to the west, and Pacific Time Zone on the west coast.
Like most things in this country, we created additional complex exceptions to the entire concept of observing time.
Parts of Indiana and Arizona do not observe daylight saving time, and some areas of Alaska use variations of the Alaska Time Zone. Some U.S. territories also have their own time zones.
So, is a lunar time zone the solution to this problem, or is it another needless idea?
What is Moon Time?
Well, we haven’t settled that yet. The European Space Agency has shared its thoughts on setting a global time based on the Earth’s Moon. Read that if you like all the nerdy details. For everyone else, here are the key points:
What are the benefits of Moon Time?
- Future lunar missions will require accurate timekeeping for navigation and communication, as well as for scientific experiments.
- Atomic clocks, which are highly accurate and stable, will be crucial for timekeeping on the Moon and could also be used to test fundamental physics theories.
- The Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment allows scientists to measure the distance between the Earth and our Moon with extreme precision based on the time it takes for a laser beam to bounce back.
- A lunar time standard could be established in the long term, which would have important implications for space exploration and navigation.
- The Moon has no atmosphere or weather, making it a stable environment for precise timekeeping. However…
The problems with Moon Time
- The Moon’s surface experiences extreme temperatures, which can affect the accuracy of timekeeping devices.
- Clocks on the Moon gain roughly 56 microseconds per day, with variables between the surface and atmosphere of the Moon.
Let’s explore what moon time would mean for all of us.
What would Lunar Standard Time be like?
More likely, space agencies would use it to sync other existing systems. We common folk would probably use moon time indirectly.
Terrestrial satellite navigation systems, such as Galileo and GPS, use their own timing systems but are offset relative to each other and the global standard of UTC. This is part of all our daily lives, including how the Internet, banking, and aviation systems work.
Will this finally give us one time zone for everyone?
A single time zone for the entire world could simplify international communication and reduce confusion across different regions. It could also eliminate the need for time zone conversions in international business and travel.
However, implementing a global time zone would require significant coordination and agreement among countries and would likely face resistance from those who prefer to maintain their current time zone. Additionally, it could disrupt daily routines and schedules, as people in some regions would have to adjust to drastically different daylight and nighttime hours.
Imagine having dinner at 9 a.m. or watching a 1 p.m. premiere of the latest hit TV show. It would be an adjustment, but it might be worth the effort!
So, what is Moon time?
Nothing quite yet.
Someday it may be easier to coordinate meetings and TV show premieres with a standard Moon Time. For now, we’ll watch out for NASA and the ESA updates. Watch this space.
Until it’s possible to live somewhere in outer space, you may want to invest in an un-welcoming door mat.
Why would NASA send a clock to space?
To see if time really does fly.