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What is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)?

Setting a Standard for World Time Zones

Note: UK Time is GMT during winter - between October and March

Greenwich Mean Time or GMT is the clock time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. It is the same all year round and is not affected by Summer Time or Daylight Saving Time.

When the sun is at its highest point exactly above the Prime Meridian, it is 1200 noon at Greenwich.

View current Sun position and Midnight/Midday on Earth.

GMT is still widely used as the standard time against which all the other time zones in the world are referenced.

GMT was originally set-up to aid naval navigation when travel around the globe started to open up with the discovery of the “New World” (America) in the fifteenth century.

Read more here about the connection between accurate time-keeping, GMT and sea voyages.

GMT was not forced on to “land-lubbers” until the introduction of the railways (railroads) in the mid-nineteenth century. The developing railway network meant that Britain needed a national time system to replace the local time adopted by major towns and cities.

As Greenwich, due to the presence of the Royal Observatory, was the national centre for time and had been since 1675, the choice was obvious. Nevertheless, GMT was not adopted officially by Parliament until 2 August 1880 .

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was then adopted by the United States (USA) on 18 November 1883. The chosen moment was at noon, when the telegraph lines transmitted time signals to all major cities. Prior to that there were over 300 local times in the USA.

On 1 November 1884, GMT was adopted universally at the International Meridian Conference in Washington, DC, USA. As a result, the International Date Line was drawn up and 24 time zones were created.

Today, GMT is used as the UK’s civil time, or UTC. GMT has been referred to as “UT1", which directly corresponds to the rotation of the Earth, and is subject to that rotation’s slight irregularities. It is the difference between UT1 and UTC that is kept below 0.9s by the application of leap seconds.

More Greenwich history

Greenwich was a royal park and palace on a hill to the south of the River Thames east of London .

In 1675 the great race to create accurate maps for navigators had begun and Charles II offered the land to The Royal Society for Britain's first national observatory. Christopher Wren was commissioned to design the domed building and John Flamsteed was appointed the Astronomer Royal. British mapmakers began to set Longitude from Greenwich and in 1884 it was adopted as the Prime Meridian.

Every 15° longitude represents one hour's difference in time: (24 x 15 = 360, the degrees of a circle). You can work out the time at every location on earth if you know how many degrees it is east or west of Greenwich.

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The Greenwich Meridian (Prime Meridian or Longitude Zero degrees) marks the starting point of every Time Zone of the time zone map.

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Most time offsets are measured by GMT. Although GMT has been replaced by atomic time (UTC) it is still widely regarded as the correct time for every international time zone.

Check out the GMT timestamp to see how accurate your computer time is.

Where is Greenwich, England ?

  • Longitude 0° 0' 0"
  • Latitude 51° 28' 38"N (North of the Equator)

Greenwich Mean Time in Space

STS-114 Picture of International Space Station (NASA)

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the time used on the International Space Station.

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is also known as Zulu Time .

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