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Time zone

A time zone is a region of the globe that observes a uniform standard time for legal, commercial, and social purposes. Time zones tend to follow the boundaries of countries and their subdivisions because it is convenient for areas in close commercial or other communication to keep the same time.

Most of the time zones on land are offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) by a whole number of hours (UTC−12 to UTC+14), but a few zones are offset by 30 or 45 minutes (for example Newfoundland Standard Time is UTC−03:30, Nepal Standard Time is UTC+05:45, and Indian Standard Time is UTC+05:30). Some higher latitude and temperate zone countries use daylight saving time for part of the year, typically by adjusting local clock time by an hour. Many land time zones are skewed toward the west of the corresponding nautical time zones. This also creates a permanent daylight saving time effect.

Before clocks were first invented, it was common practice to mark the time of day with apparent solar time (also called "true" solar time) – for example, the time on a sundial – which was typically different for every location and dependent on longitude.

When well-regulated mechanical clocks became widespread in the early 19th century, each city began to use some local mean solar time. Apparent and mean solar time can differ by up to around 15 minutes (as described by the equation of time) because of the elliptical shape of the Earth's orbit around the Sun (eccentricity) and the tilt of the Earth's axis (obliquity). Mean solar time has days of equal length, and the difference between the two sums to zero after a year.

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was established in 1675, when the Royal Observatory was built, as an aid to mariners to determine longitude at sea, providing a standard reference time while each city in England kept a different local time.


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