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Oh my days! Midnight comes a fraction sooner as Earth spins faster
If time feels tighter than ever of late, blame it on the revolution. On 29 June this year, Earth racked up an unusual record: its shortest day since the 1960s, when scientists began measuring the planet’s rotation with high-precision atomic clocks.
Broadly speaking, Earth completes one full turn on its axis every 24 hours. That single spin marks out a day and drives the cycle of sunrise and sunset that has shaped patterns of life for billions of years. But the curtains fell early on 29 June, with midnight arriving 1.59 milliseconds sooner than expected.
The past few years have seen a flurry of records fall, with shorter days being notched up ever more frequently. In 2020, the Earth turned out 28 of the shortest days in the past 50 years, with the shortest of those, on 19 July, shaving 1.47 milliseconds off the 86,400 seconds that make up 24 hours. The 29 June record came close to being broken again last month, when 26 July came in 1.5 milliseconds short