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Understanding the Difference Between UTC and GPS for Time Synchronization

Relation between UTC and GPS

UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, is a global time standard that synchronizes clocks and timekeeping devices worldwide. It is based on the primary standard of time, the atomic clock, and is adjusted periodically to account for the earth’s irregular rotation.

GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a satellite-based navigation system used to determine the position and time of a receiver on Earth. The GPS system consists of a network of satellites orbiting the Earth, ground control stations, and receivers.

While UTC and GPS are used for time synchronization, they are not the same. UTC is a global time standard based on atomic clocks, while GPS is a navigation system that relies on satellites to provide accurate time information. GPS time is actually based on a different time standard called GPS time, which is based on the frequency of atomic clocks on GPS satellites.

To synchronize UTC and GPS, a process called leap seconds is used. Leap seconds are added to UTC periodically to keep it in sync with the earth’s rotation. GPS time, however, does not account for leap seconds, meaning there is a constant offset between GPS time and UTC. At the moment, the offset of UTC to GPS is +18sec.

GPS time and UTC are derived from the atomic time TAI, a reference used to define the time unit in SI, kept by 400 atomic clocks worldwide. So exactly time is only a question of which standard to use.

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