Published: 01 April 2016

April Fool 2016: Leap years to be scrapped after Surrey scientists discover Earth’s orbit has slowed

Read our 2016 April Fools’ Day news story and learn more about the remarkable real research taking place at the University of Surrey.

Leap years will be scrapped and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) will be replaced by a new standard dubbed Global Extra Time (GET) after scientists at the University of Surrey discover changes to the Earth’s orbit.

  • Reduced gravitational pull from the sun has extended the Earth’s orbit from 365.25 to just under 365.5 days
  • Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) to be replaced by Global Extra Time (GET) standard, which will add nearly four extra seconds to each hour
  • New GET standard will eradicate the need for leap years after 2016

Scientists at the University of Surrey have found that abnormally high amounts of solar activity in the past five years has resulted in our sun burning through more hydrogen than in a normal five year period. The result of this has seen an overall 0.2% reduction in the mass of the sun, reducing the gravitational influence that the sun exerts over planet Earth. 

Longer orbit, longer days

Whereas previously the Earth took 365.25 days to orbit the sun, the reduced gravitational influence now means planet Earth will complete the full orbit in a longer period of time, which will be closer to 365.5 days. 

Professor Jim Al-Khalili, lead scientist, explained: “Whilst this may at face value appear like a minor change, the result is that a leap year would now be required nearly every two years. To deal with this problem, we have invented a new Global Extra Time standard which automatically adds nearly 94 seconds to each day, eradicating the need for any further leap years. 

“Remarkably, the reduced mass of the sun has also fractionally lengthened an Earth day in exactly the same ratio of change. The slower spin of the Earth (which dictates an Earth day) will therefore still be aligned with the slightly longer earth year.”  

GET more time in 2017

The new GET standard, which will be introduced in 2017, will also be adaptive to future changes in the sun’s activity and will automatically recalculate how many seconds need to be added to each day should the sun’s rate of hydrogen-burn alter in the future. 

The Earth’s sister planets have also been affected by the change in the sun’s reduced gravitational influence. Sadly, Neptune, one of the outer objects in our solar-system and 2.8 billion miles from the sun, will be drastically affected by the sun’s weaker gravitational influence. Scientists have calculated the planet will now drift off into space and will not orbit the sun within the next 150 years.

Real research with real impact

At Surrey, we combine expertise from across the University to address key global challenges to sustainability, connectivity and wellbeing.

Strange but true 

Learn more about some of the weird and wonderful ways our research is making a real impact on the world:

Browse our Media Centre to read more research news stories and features.

Learn more about Surrey’s research environment and fields of expertise on our research website.

Share what you've read?