# Is there a way to get AbsoluteTime to correctly report absolute time differences?

Absolute time supposedly reports the "total number of seconds" between two dates, but it does not. For example because of the leap second applied at 2012-06-30T23:59:60Z

AbsoluteTime[{2012, 7, 1}] - AbsoluteTime[{2012, 6, 29}]


should be 172,801, but it is 172,800. In fact, Mathematica seems to ignore leap seconds altogether:

DateList[{2012, 6, 30, 23, 59, 60.5}, TimeZone -> 0]


produces {2012, 7, 1, 5, 0, 0.5} when it should produce {2012, 6, 30, 23, 59, 60.5}.

Am I missing something here? How are calculations and functions, such as AstronomicalData that depend on accurate time specifications supposed to work?

Update: This remains the case in version 9.0 and 10.0.2.

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Note that I'd be happy (well, a bit unhappy actually) with an answer that simply clarified Mathematica's concept of a "time". For example, it seems that by "time", it really means "calendar date including hours, minutes, and seconds", so that AbsoluteTime is a bit of a misnomer: it's really "DifferenceBetweenCalendarDatesConvertedToSeconds". – raxacoricofallapatorius Nov 22 '12 at 18:30
This is known to be a deficiency for a lot of years. I think it will not be changed. – Rolf Mertig Nov 22 '12 at 20:08
@RolfMertig: So it's easy enough then (I think) to see one implication of this for AstronomicalData: leap seconds are ignored and time is just ticking away according to a uniform clock, but not UTC, so that the data reported by AstronomicalData for a given (*Mathematica) "date" will actually be the data for a different UTC date (what the world outside *Mathematica *means by "date") some seconds away. But that leaves the question: which date? – raxacoricofallapatorius Nov 22 '12 at 20:53
@RolfMertig, got a Uncompress::corrupt error on your hashed email. Can you fix? – alancalvitti Dec 11 '14 at 17:40
@raxacoricofallapatorius, why not report this to WRI tech support linking to this page? Since they have Big Data / Analytics ambitions, the public forum might help to keep them honest. – alancalvitti Dec 11 '14 at 17:44

The question is how to get AstronomicalData to report the "total number of seconds" between two dates, as claimed; not how to calculate them on one's own. – raxacoricofallapatorius Dec 11 '14 at 16:48
How to interpret the several gaps between regular intervals? years in tai-utc (year only, ignoring month) Import["http://maia.usno.navy.mil/ser7/tai-utc.dat"][[All, 1]] // NumberLinePlot – alancalvitti Dec 11 '14 at 18:05