DR. CHANDRA SHEKHAR BALACHANDRAN

There are 24 time zones on earth. So which country would be the first to usher in 2010?

Do you know how longitudes and latitudes Affect the new year?

You have all had to study about latitudes and longitudes. BORING!! Right?

Wrong!

Latitudes and longitudes make our lives very interesting. Let us look at how longitudes affect a world-wide holiday – New Year’s Day.

First, a quick revision. Latitudes are imaginary horizontal lines on Earth. Longitudes are vertical. Latitudes and longitudes intersect and form an imaginary grid on Earth. Longitudes meet at the two poles and range from 0° (Greenwich meridian) to 180°, going east and west.

One simple rule

There are 24 time zones on Earth. The 0 {+t} {+h} time zone is where a day begins. Actually, this should be at 180° longitude.

If you travel east across 180° longitude you should subtract 1 from your date (lose a day), if you travel west across the line, you add 1 to your date (gain a day).

That’s what it should be. But it isn’t. Why?

Well, if we followed that rule, a small part of eastern Russia would have a different date – if the date on west of the line were 1 January 2010, east of the line would be 31 December 2009! Russia would have two different dates!

180° longitude passes through the Pacific Ocean where countries are made up of clusters of islands. These countries would have two dates. Problem!

So, individual countries have decided to redraw the IDL away from the 180° longitude.

So, whichever country is the first on the west of the IDL, gets to greet the new year first! A lot of people traveled to small Pacific Ocean islands in December 1999 to be the first ones to greet the year 2000. Which island country was the first? Kiribati.

In 1995 Kiribati moved the IDL to keep the whole country on the same day at the same time. Before then, the western part of Kiribati (where its capital Tarawa is located) was 22 hours ahead the eastern portion of the country because of the IDL!

So, which place in India will be the first to greet 2010? Well, going by longitude alone, it should be the place where the borders of Arunachal Pradesh, China, and Myanmar meet. But India has adopted the same time for the whole country, the Indian Standard Time (IST).

So, wherever you are in India, you can say Happy New Year at the same moment!

Look up the countries along the IDL in your atlas. Find out which country or place will be the last one that gets to greet 2010.

Share your findings with info@tiigs.org and we will publish selections on the blog at http://tiigs.org on 5 January 2010.