Time Conversions with SPICE

JPL’s SPICE Toolkit (SPICELIB) is the premier software library for computations related to solar system geometry. It is freely distributed, and is also one of the best-documented libraries I have ever come across. SPICELIB also includes a comprehensive set of routines for date and time conversions. An example is shown here:

program spice_test

use iso_fortran_env, only: wp => real64

implicit none

    ! SPICELIB routines
    subroutine timout ( et, pictur, output )
        import :: wp
        implicit none
        real(wp),intent(in) :: et
        character(len=*),intent(in) :: pictur
        character(len=*),intent(out) :: output
    end subroutine timout
    subroutine str2et ( string, et )
        import :: wp
        implicit none
        character(len=*),intent(in) :: string
        real(wp),intent(out) :: et
    end subroutine str2et
    subroutine furnsh ( file )
        implicit none
        character(len=*),intent(in) :: file
    end subroutine furnsh
end interface

character(len=*),parameter :: time_in = &
    '2017 Aug 12 00:00:00 TDB'
character(len=*),parameter :: pictur = &
    'Mon DD,YYYY HR:MN:SC.#### UTC ::UTC'
real(wp) :: et
character(len=100) :: time_out

! load the leap second kernel:
call furnsh('naif0012.tls')

! example conversion:
call str2et(time_in, et)
call timout(et, pictur, time_out)

write(*,*) 'time_in:  ', time_in
write(*,*) 'et:       ', et
write(*,*) 'time_out: ', time_out

end program spice_test

A few things to note:

  • Here we are using the SPICE routines str2et and timout to convert a string from a TDB calendar date to ephemeris time and then to a UTC calendar date. These routines are very flexible and can convert a wide range of date formats. Other routines are available to do other transformations.
  • The base time system of SPICE is Barycentric Dynamical Time (TDB). “Ephemeris time” is a count of TDB seconds since the J2000 epoch (Jan 1, 2000 12:00:00).
  • We have to load the latest leap second kernel (naif0012.tls in this case), which is necessary to define UTC.
  • The SPICE routines are not in a module (the code is Fortran 77), and so have no explicit interfaces. Thus it is good practice to specify them as I do here.

The output of this example is:

time_in: 2017 Aug 12 00:00:00 TDB
et: 555768000.00000000
time_out: Aug 11,2017 23:58:50.8169 UTC

See also

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