The Science of Time: Time in Astronomy and Society, Past, Present, and Future

June 5-9, 2016, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Deadline to be extended beyond April 14, 2016.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA (USA) announces a conference on Time and culture.

The uses of time in astronomy – from pointing telescopes, coordinating and processing observations, predicting ephemerides, determining Earth orientation, analyzing time-series data and in many other ways – represent a broad sample of how time is used throughout human society and in space. Time and its reciprocal, frequency, is the most accurately measurable quantity and often an important path to the frontiers of science. But the future of timekeeping is changing with the development of optical frequency standards and the resulting challenges of distributing time at ever higher precision, with the possibility of timescales based on pulsars, and with the inclusion of higher-order relativistic effects. The definition of the second will likely be changed before the end of this decade, and its realization will increase in accuracy; the definition of the day is no longer obvious. The variability of the Earth’s rotation presents challenges of understanding and prediction. It is time to take a closer look at time in astronomy and other sciences as a defining element of modern civilization.

The symposium aims to set the stage for future timekeeping standards, infrastructure, and engineering best practices for astronomers and the broader society.  It will explore the history of sundials, clocks, and calendars, and the social, cultural, and religious uses of timing information. The theoreticians and engineers of time will be brought together with the educators and historians of science, enriching the understanding of time among both experts and the public.

Papers and posters are invited on topics such as these:

  • The scientific and technical uses of time and time series data
  • The civil and scientific understanding of time – education and outreach
  • The history of time and timepieces, sundials, clocks, and calendars
  • Social, cultural, and religious uses of timing information
  • High-precision time from sundials and the pendulum to atomic clocks and pulsars
  • Impact of precise time and frequency measurement in astronomy & basic science
  • Earth rotation and time
  • Time and solar-system ephemerides
  • The physics of time

For submission of abstracts, registration, and other details, please visit

Posted: April 18, 2016