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=====The Missing Moment=====

After TheChanges, practically everyone agreed that EventTheFirstSighting was the first proof of anything strange happening to Earth. Countless claims of earlier transformations, magic, or supernatural sightings were made, but evidence for them was always suspiciously lacking. Then, in February 1997, astronomers came to the electrifying conclusion that, two days before The First Sighting, Earth had experienced a hiccup that caused the whole planet to lose approximately two-thirds of a second.

===Event Information===

**Date:** Monday, Dec. 16, 1996
~- **Era:** EraPreChanges
**Location:** n/a


For several months after Dec. 16, nobody had any reason to suspect that anything odd had occurred that day. Then, in February, German astronomer Stefan Schneider tried to track down the source of a small anomaly in his data (a short period in the regular rhythm of a pulsar the Effelsberg Radio Telescope was observing over time). Schneider cross-referenced that Dec. 16 oddity against a similar pulsar being observed by the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia, only to see the same hiccup at the same time. Curious, he called a few other observatories, to find that the glitch they had all independently ignored or written off as a mechanical failure was mirrored in data worldwide, no matter what they were observing at the time.

The data was consistent with what results would have been expected if the observations had all been paused for approximately 2/3 of a second. However, nothing seemed mechanically wrong with any of the telescopes, and for all of them to fail for the same precise length of time (but no clocks, computers, etc.) defied simple explanation. Shockingly, the most reasonable conclusion was that somehow Earth had lost 2/3 of a second.

The missing time was subsequently confirmed by examination of every astronomical observation that had been taking place at the time. It had to be confirmed that way because there was no local evidence for it. Everything on Earth seemed to be affected equally. People didn't notice any delay; clocks didn't stop; CDs didn't skip. Life just went on, as normal, except that the rest of the universe got to go on for 2/3 of a second that Earth didn't.

The cause of this missing time remains resolutely unknown. Any number of supernatural explanations have been proposed, but they all seem slightly awkward in view of the fact that at least 48 more hours would pass before the EventFirstSighting confirmed Earth's new capabilities, and that nobody bothered to mention The Missing Moment in their theories of TheChanges until after news of it broke in February.

==Verified Observations==

TTU astronomers have confirmed the following pieces of data:
~- Time on Earth appears to have been completely frozen for 2/3 of a second while the universe continued on without it. For example, pulsars under observation changed state 2/3 of a second earlier than expected during the period containing The Missing Moment; deep-space probes' transmissions lost about 2/3 of a second of data; and recordings of solar flare activity and cosmic noise show a brief discontinuity. Nobody on Earth had any sensation of lost time (at least, nobody reported it until after news of the astronomical observations broke, and such reports are generally dismissed as psychosomatic); all clocks and computers were also frozen for the duration (and thus stayed in sync with human observation); and no objects appeared to have been affected by (e.g.) gravity for the missing 2/3 of a second (again, staying in sync with human observation).
~- The Earth and its satellites returned after the 2/3 second glitch in their original orientation and relative position, and with their original momentum; telescopes, etc., continued to point exactly where they were aimed, and there was no change in the orbit of Earth's satellites.
~- The Earth and everything in its orbit -- both natural and artificial; and even intangible effects such as radio and sound waves -- appear to have all been affected equally. Communication with orbiting satellites occurred without so much as a single transmission packet lost. Careful measurement of the moon fails to show any angular shift (which would be MUCH more dramatic for the moon than for other celestial bodies, being much closer, and so within the limits of human detection).

==Unverified Observations==

~- In 1998, a few mages playing with advanced time-magic effects and high-precision scientific equipment claimed to have measured the missing time to 0.692 seconds beginning at 11:23:58.584 GMT, and to have determined that the Earth continued in its usual orbit during that period. Their experiments have been declared unreproducible by mainstream thaumatologists; time windows opened to the period in question show no evidence of a temporal discontinuity. Scientists generally discount this claim because it would imply that Earth obeyed the laws of motion in a bizarrely selective way (affected by both overall momentum and outside gravity while ignoring its own angular momentum and gravitational pull). However, the mages' results (to the degree conventional science can confirm or deny it) are at least plausible.

==Immediate Reaction==

At the time of The Missing Moment, nobody noticed anything suspicious; the changes were too subtle for direct observation. It wasn't until months later that the event was even verified.

Predictably, that news ignited another wave of claims of strange happenings and physical shifts supposedly seen before EventTheFirstSighting. Such claimants were again largely dismissed as publicity seekers.


For most people, The Missing Moment would turn out to be just a curiosity -- it was too abstract and mathematical to worry about at a time when any TV channel could show raw magic on the 10 o'clock news. But while it would largely be ignored, it wouldn't be forgotten. Astronomers had to spend a great deal of time adjusting their calculations and December data accordingly, and conspiracy theorists found plenty of room for idle speculation. And the question of whether EventTheFirstSighting or The Missing Moment were more responsible for starting TheChanges would also persist.


~- **11:23:58 AM GMT, Dec. 16, 1996:** The Missing Moment.
~- **Feb. 14, 1997:** Schneider announces his preliminary finding of a Dec. 16 worldwide astronomical aberration.
~- **Feb. 16, 1997:** After confirming the aberration and starting to measure its size, astronomers first put forward the theory of a time hiccup.

===Further Reading===

==Story Appearances==
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==Story Excerpts==

~"x." - x

==Other Associated Pages==
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==Also See==

===Other Information===


There has been some speculation (inside TTU) based on the fact that the event occurred at 11:23 and 58 seconds Greenwich Mean Time -- while the clock was showing the initial digits of the [[WikiPedia:Fibonacci_number Fibonacci sequence]]. However, this is largely written off as coincidence among people who have given the issue more than casual study ... especially since the sequence does not appear to continue. The event appears to have occurred slightly closer to 11:23:59 than 11:23:58, which means that it could not have occurred at either 11:23:58.13 (13/100 of a second) or 11:23:58'13" (13/60 of a second).

(These time figures are given to the limit of the scientific precision available within TTU. Had astronomers known it was coming, they could have arranged observations that offered much better accuracy; as it is, they had to make do with what data was in the process of being collected at the time, much of which was useless for determining details of the skip.)

==Writing Tips==

Inside TTU, The Missing Moment is largely the province of specialists and conspiracy theorists. By March 1997, the fact of its existence is open knowledge, but very few people see much significance in it -- certainly nothing as dramatic as a dragon walking down the street two days later. Most see it as self-evidently connected with TheChanges somehow, but the causality of it is pure guesswork.


As it turns out, the time mages were partially right: Earth continued to move during The Missing Moment -- but not in its regular orbit! Earth (and its satellites) continued to move on pure momentum, not gravitationally interacting with the rest of the solar system, during that 2/3 of a second; this means it moved fractionally farther from the sun and a tiny bit behind its expected position, about 4 miles from where it would have been had everything stayed normal. (Had it frozen in space as well as time, it would have been about 12 miles behind its expected location.)

The reason this is meta-information is that, quite simply, there are no scientific tools that are capable of confirming such a tiny change, considering the magnitude of the other distances involved in measuring it. Four miles is such a small amount that the viewing angle to our //closest// neighbor, Venus, at its //closest// approach, would have changed by less than 1/1000 of an arc-second. This is roughly the width of a human hair held by someone standing a hundred miles away!

Even today, the best possible resolution of ground-based telecope arrays is about 40/1000 of an arc-second [[ (1)]], and even orbital telescopes (which don't have to contend with the turbulence in Earth's atmosphere) have resolving power on the order of 20/1000 of an arc-second [[ (2)]]. Even though magitech would ultimately help TTU scientists create precision lenses to advance the astronomical state-of-the-art by decades, in 1996 there was simply no way of collecting enough data about the event to obtain this information with sufficient precision.


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