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December 30, 2016

2016 will last a little longer thanks to a 'leap second'

Will this year ever end?

It seems like 2016 – the year that brought tragedies like David Bowie and Prince's death, the spread of the Zika virus, Harmabe's death at the Cincinnati Zoo and one of the craziest presidential elections in U.S. history – won't ever come to a close.

Bad news – 2016 will be just one-second longer, according to scientists at the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service.

Why? Apparently, the "leap second" has to happen to keep the world's atomic clock in synch with the Earth's own rhythm. 

The "leap second" isn't as common as the leap year, but has happened 26 times since 1972, about every two to three years since. The last leap second happened in June 2015.

Here's how Peter Whibberley, senior research scientist with the Time & Frequency Group at the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom broke it down:

"Atomic clocks are more than a million times better at keeping time than the rotation of the Earth, which fluctuates unpredictably. Leap seconds are needed to prevent civil time drifting away from Earth time. Although the drift is small – taking around a thousand years to accumulate a one-hour difference – if not corrected, it would eventually result in clocks showing midday before sunrise."

The extra second will be added New Year's Eve – making your countdown to the ball drop just that much longer. Saturday will have 86,401 seconds instead of the normal 86,400. 

What will you do with the extra time?