Abstract: Time Utilities are software tools that, in principal, allow one to calculate BJD to a precision of 1 μs for any target from anywhere on Earth or from any spacecraft. As the quality and quantity of astrophysical data continue to improve, the precision with which certain astrophysical events can be timed becomes limited not by the data themselves, but by the manner, standard, and uniformity with which time itself is referenced. While some areas of astronomy (most notably pulsar studies) have required absolute time stamps with precisions of considerably better than 1 minute for many decades, recently new areas have crossed into this regime. In particular, in the exoplanet community, we have found that the (typically unspecified) time standards adopted by various groups can differ by as much as a minute. Left uncorrected, this ambiguity may be mistaken for transit timing variations and bias eccentricity measurements. We recommend using BJD_TDB, the Barycentric Julian Date in the Barycentric Dynamical Time standard for any astrophysical event. The BJD_TDB is the most practical absolute time stamp for extraterrestrial phenomena, and is ultimately limited by the properties of the target system. We compile a general summary of factors that must be considered in order to achieve timing precisions ranging from 15 minutes to 1 μs, and provide software for download and online webapps for use.
Credit: Jason Eastman