What is UTC?

Published at: Jan. 9, 2023

As everyone probably knows, the world is divided into different time zones. For example, the Netherlands uses a different time zone than Australia, which is on the other side of our globe.

A steam train racing the sun in Wolfgang Tillmans style

A short history of time zones

Previously, when there were no time zones, countries used their own time, with local time differences even being common. When Canadian Sandford Fleming personally suffered from this (he had missed his train because a different time was used at the train station) he proposed to divide the world into fixed time zones.

The difference between GMT and UTC

Since a day lasts 24 hours, the earth was divided into 24 time zones. Geographically, each time zone consisted of 15° degrees. To determine time, the Meridian of Greenwich was chosen as the benchmark or zero point, also called the Greenwich Mean Time. The Greenwich Mean Time is an astronomical time. When the Atomic Clock made its appearance in the 1960s and proved to be much more accurate than Greenwich time, it was decided to use a new standard time as a benchmark or zero point. This is the UTC time. UTC itself is not an abbreviation but an amalgamation of the French Temps Universel Coordonné (TUC) and the English Coordinated Universal Time (CUT)

The time in different time zones is always indicated by the difference from UTC. For example, the time in Curaçao is indicated internationally as UTC-4.