Time Zone Database – A Critical But Overlooked Zmanim Component

An important aspect of calculating accurate zmanim, is ensuring that the timezone information on the computer generating the zmanim is kept up to date. The volunteer maintained IANA time zone database (also known as the tz, zoneinfo or Olson database) is used globally by computers to store time zone information. Failure to keep up to date with the latest database will result in potentially generating zmanim that can be off by an hour or more in parts of the world. This time zone database is updated multiple times a year as locations around the world change their time zone information. Often changes are to the start and end of DST in various zones, but it sometimes includes year-round changes and newly introduced time zones that have rules differing from the geographic area around them. There is a general lack of awareness by zmanim software developers and system maintainers hosting zmanim apps, of the criticality of keeping this data up to date. A lack of keeping it up to date can result in the possibility of significant issues in zmanim calculations. Subscribing to the tz-announce mailing list will keep you up to date on the latest zone changes.

Timelines for Time Zone Data Updates

There are times when updates to the database are not released until after the changes take effect, and there are cases where the announcements are made very shortly before they take effect. An example of this was Lebanon’s 2023 change and reversal. On Mar 23, 2023 Lebanon announced that the DST that had been scheduled to start 2 days later on Mar 25 was being postponed to Apr 20. The IANA time zone database 2023b was released a day later on Mar 24 (2 days after the 2023a release). On Mar 27 they announced that they were moving to DST on Mar 29. On Mar 27, 2023c was released that restored an identical version to what had been released in 2023a.
Here is a timeline from the 2024a update for Kazakhstan (that has a small Jewish community impacted by the change). The change unified time zones for the entire country (that stretches 3,000 km /1,900 mi from east to west and geographically spans 4 time zones) from two (UTC+6 and UTC+5) to one UTC+5 zone. The timeline shows that despite being on top of things, you can’t always ensure that you are up to date.

  • Oct 19, 2023 – Discussions started about a proposed change to unify Kazakhstan on a single time zone. On Nov 12, 2023 – A draft decree about the change was published.
  • Dec 7, 2023 – The Kazakh Ministry of Trade and Integration announced the decree formalizing the changes.
  • Jan 19, 2024 – The changes were brought to the attention of the IANA Time Zone Database maintainers. It is not unusual for a delay like this in notifying the maintainers of a change.
  • Feb 1, 2024 – The time zone data change was released as 2024a.
  • Feb 2, 2024 – PECL timezonedb package was released.
  • Feb 4, 2024 – Moment.js‘s Moment Timezone releases v0.5.45 with the change.
  • Feb 14, 2024 – Android Mainline PR is merged. It would be available to most Android 10 devices within 24 hours. Older Android versions will have to wait for the next release.
  • Mar 1, 2024 – At the stroke of midnight, the clocks in part of Kazakhstan rolled back to Feb 29 at 11pm, resulting in a 25 hour leap year leap day.
  • Mar 6, 2024 – Node.js code was initially updated on the main branch on Feb 15 and an issue was opened on March 1 to have a release with the updated zone information. The non-LTS version 21.7.0 with the change was released om March 6. LTS versions and 18.20.0 with the changed were released on March 26, 26 days after it took effect.
  • Mar 26, 2024 – Windows made the first update available via the March 2024 non-security preview update (that most do not install), 26 days after the change took effect.
  • Apr 9, 2024 – General availability of the Windows patch was released, 40 days after it took effect.

Updating Operating Systems and Various Languages

Below are the basics for keeping your system’s time zone database up to date. Note that there are times when the announcements of changes do not give much warning, and it is not always possible to keep perfectly up to date on some platforms. If you have information on languages and systems not covered here, please post information in the comments section.

  • Windows – Keep your Windows Updates up to date with optional updates. Systems set for security updates only, will never receive this update. See the information above on the windows portion of the timeline section.
  • Linux – Patches are usually available immediately after the release by the IANA team. Here is some info, but be sure to read the manuals before trying things. Ubuntu you would run something like sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y tzdata. For Redhat it would involve something like sudo dnf update && dnf upgrade -y tzdata.
  • Android devices receive timely time zone updates for the devices current location, that will often not address issues in updating zone information for other locations. When generating zmanim for another location, care must be taken to ensure that the underlying zone database is up to date. Note that as of Android 10 (released in Sep, 2019 and currently only on about 20% of devices), the TZDB module was enhanced to update via the Mainline modules system that speeds up deployment of the updates. The Android tzdata process was enhanced late in 2023 to separate this to a standalone process that can be quickly updated multiple times a year without having to wait for other Mainline updates. Developers who want to package their own database to support older Android devices can package the Joda-Time for Android with their app, but they would have to ensure that they update their app every time a new zone database is released.
  • Java provides a TZUpdater tool (download) that can can be used to update the time zone database in Java. Having the latest Java release is not reliable enough, since there are time zone changes more often than the twice yearly release (though minor versions are updated more often).
  • JavaScript / TypeScript that use Moment would have to update their package.json and run npm install to receive updates. Luxon seems to use the operating system’s tzinfo. See info for Linux and Windows above. For other packages or libraries, research is needed.
  • PHP out of the box only updates the zone data on new releases, They maintain the timezonedb PECL package to deal with cases (like ours) where up to date zone data is needed, but it requires regular updates.
  • Python uses the operating system’s tzinfo. See info for Linux and Windows above. Alternatively, use pytz.
  • Ruby uses the operating system’s tzinfo. See info for Linux and Windows above.
  • Go uses the operating system’s tzinfo. A standalone copy can optionally be embedded in the Go executable.
  • iOS – I was unable to find any reliable information on the subject. Apple support declined to provide any information on the subject besides confirming that they push time zone updates in a timely manner.

For many systems, cron or other jobs are needed to keep the database updated on a regular schedule. For many, a restart of the system may be required.

Warning: Inexpensive shared hosting poses significant challenges to keeping your system zone database current. There are many aspects that you have no control over, and keeping the time zone database up to date is often not high on the agenda of risk-averse shared hosts.

Additional Complexities with Mobile Devices

There is an additional set of complexities for time zones for mobile devices. While this affects Macs and possibly Windows, very few if any are using native zmanim apps on those platforms.

  • One of the more common complaints about incorrect zmanim end up being caused by the device being set to the incorrect time zone. Most devices change their zone automatically, but some users manually change things and when they travel to a different zone without changing the zone, it results in incorrect zmanim. Mobile developers should explore detecting that the time zone on the device is different than the expected time zone, and alert the user to check the devices time zone setting, while ensuring that it does not have issues when there is no cellular signal (such as when flying).
  • Users in Israel may find themselves in areas where the phone sets the zone to Asia/Hebron or Asia/Gaza. Those areas have different DST rules than Israel, and will cause issues when the DST rules differ. A way to handle this situation in an app is to ensure that the app detects the setting of these two zones and use Asia/Jerusalem. I am unsure if Israeli cell providers return the expected zone setting in the West Bank (or Gaza).

Here is sample java.time.ZoneId code to address the second issue.

ZoneId zi = ZoneId.of("Asia/Hebron");
if((zi.getId().equals("Asia/Gaza") || zi.getId().equals("Asia/Hebron"))){
    zi = ZoneId.of("Asia/Jerusalem");

Historical List of Time Zone Changes

To give an idea of the scope of time zone changes (that some assume are rare or trivial), here is a list of changes to the database. The year 2009 sticks out with 21 published changes to the database, but as you can see, there are many years numerous changes published. This list excludes technical, historical (where there are corrections to the history of time zone changes years after the fact) and some irrelevant changes. There are many examples where a location made changes more than once a year, and those are not broken out. You can see some patterns here of countries that change very often. Ramadan is a cause of many changes in Muslim countries.

Year Updates Updated areas and Zones
2024 1 Kazakhstan (unified Asia/Almaty and Asia/Qostanay).
2023 4 Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, much of Greenland and Lebanon.
2022 7 Chile, Palestine, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Mexico (except near the US border), Chihuahua, Fiji, northern edge of Chihuahua, much of Greenland).
2021 5 South Sudan, Jordan, Samoa, Fiji, Palestine
2020 6 Morocco, Canada’s Yukon, Casey (Antarctica), Fiji, Palestine, Volgograd.
2019 3 Metlakatla, Palestine, Brazil, Fiji, Norfolk Island.
2018 8 São Tomé and Príncipe, Brazil, Palestine, North Korea, Volgograd, Fiji, most of Chile, Morocco, Qyzylorda (Kazakhstan) and Metlakatla, Alaska. New zone Asia/Qostanay.
2017 3 Mongolia, Chile, Haiti, Northern Cyprus, Fiji, Namibia, Sudan, Tonga, Turks & Caicos.
2016 10 America/Cayman, Asia/Chita, Palestine, Asia/Tehran, America/Metlakatla, Asia/Sakhalin, Azerbaijan, Chile, America/Caracas, Asia/Magadan, Africa/Cairo, Asia/Novosibirsk, Turkey, Pacific/Tongatapu, Tonga and Antarctica/Casey. New zones Europe/Astrakhan and Europe/Ulyanovsk, Asia/Barnaul, Asia/Tomsk, Europe/Kirov, Asia/Famagusta, Europe/Saratov.
2015 7 America/Cancun, Chile, Mongolia, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, North Korea, Moldova Turkey, Norfolk, Fiji’s, Fort Nelson (BC, Canada).
2014 10 Turkey, Fiji, Crimea, Egypt, Morocco, Russia (Magadan Oblast, Zabaykalsky Krai, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Kamchatka Krai, Kemerovo Oblast, Samara Oblast), Udmurt Republic, Turks & Caicos, Fiji, Quintana Roo (Mexico), Chile. New zones Asia/Chita, Asia/Srednekolymsk and Pacific/Bougainville
2013 9 Chile, Haiti, Paraguay, Morocco, Palestine, Fiji, Tocantins, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Western Sahara, Acre, western Amazonas, Cuba. New Zones Asia/Khandyga, Asia/Ust-Nera, Europe/Busingen
2012 10 Armenia, Tokelau, Chile, Falkland Islands, Cuba, Morocco, Haiti, Fiji, Samoa, Palestine, Bahia, Tocantins, Israel, Jordan, Libya. New zone America/Creston
2011 14 America/North_Dakota/Beulah (Mercer County, North Dakota, Chile, Annette Island (Alaska), Samoa, Cuba, Turkey, Morocco, Palestine, Falkland Islands, Egypt, Russia, Newfoundland, Belarus, Ukraine, Tiraspol (Moldovia), Bahia (Brazil) and Fiji. New Africa/Juba (South Sudan) zones.
2010 15 Mexico, Paraguay, Bangladesh, Samoa, Fiji, Chile, Dhaka, Australian (Antarctic), Kamchaatka, Anadyr, Samara, Tunisia, Pakistan, Morocco and Egypt. New “Bahia_Banderas” time zone added.
2009 21 Cuba, Morocco, Tunisia, Argentina and Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Dhaka, Mauritius, Samoa, Fiji and Resolute
2008 9 Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Morocco, Pakistan, Choibalsan (Mongolia), Brazil, Iraq (abandons DST). Mauritius’s 2008 DST experiment, and some localized Brazilian time zone realignments.
2007 11 Asmara, Easter Island, Syria, Honduras, New Zealand, Australia (for 2008), America/Indiana, Brazil, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina.
2006 16 America/Indiana and America/New Brunswick (Canada), Haiti, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Syria, Uruguay, Honduras, Bermuda, Moncton, Blanc-Sablon and Western Australia.
2005 14 Uruguay, Kyrgyzstan …

KosherJava Powers Zmanim on El Al Flights

In an earlier Inflight Zmanim Calculations – Why So Complex? post, I outlined the complexity of calculating zmanim for flights. Back in Aug 2022, Dan’s Deals posted the exciting news that Zmanim were added to El Al’s flight entertainment system. This had not been formally announced by El Al at the time since the app was really in an (unannounced) alpha/beta testing phase. A careful examination of the screenshots by members of the #zmanim channel in the Frum Software Developers Slack, showed that it was powered by the KosherJava zmanim library. It should not have been surprising that it was found and used without my knowledge, since it is a free, well documented and easy to use open source library. After a number of issues with the zmanim app were reported to me (I want to thank all of those who took the time to track me down to report the issues), Rabbi Dovid Heber reached out to El Al, and Tal Kalderon, the head of El Al’s Inflight entertainment & Connectivity team reached out to me for assistance. This lead to meetings with Boris Veksler the CEO of FlightPath3D who integrated the KosherJava zmanim code into their flight maps as an optional module that El Al is using.

The FlightPath3D in-flight mapping app on El Al with the zmanim app Magen Dovid icon on the bottom left
Boris made it a personal mission to perfect the product and a series of fixes were deployed until the final release of the Prayer Room / Mesivta Derakia app was deployed on El Al aircraft on 5 Feb, 2023. At this point, the app started displaying accurate zmanim. Boris and the FlightPath3D team put a lot of effort into perfecting it into an easy-to-use app. To ease understanding of zmanim on flights that cross time zones, the app shows countdown times to the upcoming zmanim.
The El Al Zmanim app showing the default current aircraft location zmanim
For example, El Al flight LY 26 from New York to Israel departing at 9pm will show a countdown to chatzos/midnight, alos hashachar (two variants) and later zmanim (such as misheyakir, sunrise, etc.), displaying a countdown, with the number of hours and minutes to upcoming zmanim. Zmanim are calculated based on the plane’s current location, speed and the flight path. Since headwinds and tailwinds (as well as in-flight route changes) can significantly change the time that zmanim will be reached, the times to the upcoming zmanim are recalculated multiple times a minute. This significantly reduces the challenge to passengers, since precalculated zmanim do not come close to real time calculations on the flight. The app also shows a compass with the bearing to Yerushalayim / Jerusalem (map). The FAQ that is part of the zmanim app on the aircraft appears in a hyperlinked version at El Al In-Flight Zmanim FAQ on this site. The app defaults to the Aircraft location but can be changed to show zmanim for multiple international cities
The El Al zmanim app displaying zmanim for New York
, displayed in the time and time zone of those cities. The app works in both English and Hebrew, based on the language selected in the flight entertainment system. A thank you goes to R’ Chaim Keller of the indispensable Chai Tables project for allowing the development team access his flight path algorithms. The FAQ would not have been possible without help of translators and copy-editors.
The El Al Zmanim app in Hebrew
A special thanks to Effie Freiner from Lakewood for the Hebrew translation (the “Yeshivish” Hebrew posed its own set of challenges), and to my wife and Dovid Nachfolger for clarifying the language and grammar in the English FAQ.
I spent time with Rabbi Dovid Heber, Rabbi Dovid Braunfeld, Rabbi Yisroel Harfenes and Reb Solly Tropper reviewing the various complexities of calculating in-flight zmanim before the app left the βeta stage and went live.

Developing Software for Aircraft

Developing apps for use on an airliner has a series of challenges, in particular for in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems. It is a complex process that requires a deep understanding of the aviation industry and the systems onboard the aircraft.

First, the hardware hosting the apps goes through stringent safety certifications and has to pass a series of requirements. These include being isolated from any cabin and aircraft controls. The most they can do is access the flight management system (FMS) in read-only mode, with no ability to push data to the FMS. These certifications are done for each aircraft configuration and can take a year or more to complete.

Software and the associated apps also follow similar certification processes. The software must be designed to work seamlessly with any IFE systems already in place on the aircraft. Thus, it has to adapt to new and older hardware and operating systems and understand and adapt to idiosyncrasies in the data provided by the FMS. FlightPath3D is a leading provider of interactive mapping software for IFE systems. This type of software provides passengers with real-time information about their flight’s location, altitude, and speed, as well as other relevant data such as the estimated time of arrival and the distance to the destination. This made FlightPath3D a natural vendor for the zmanim work. FlightPath3D has a wealth of experience in developing high-quality software solutions that meet the needs of airlines and passengers and adapt to the particular hardware installed onboard.

לז״נ אבי מורי הרב יצחק אריה בן ר׳ ברוך הירשפלד ז״ל. נפ׳ י׳ אדר ב׳ תשפ״ב.
In memory of my father R’ Yitzchok Hershfeld (Montreal).

לז״נ חמי ר׳ שרגא פייבל בן ר׳ שלמה יהודה מילר ז״ל. נפ׳ ט״ו אייר תשפ״ג.
In memory of my father-in-law R’ Feivel Muller (Brooklyn / Lakewood).

NOAA Fixes Solar Calculator

When comparing the results of the KosherJava NOAA algorithm to the output of NOAA’s new Solar Calculator almost two years ago, a discrepancy was encountered between the two. There was no discrepancy compared to the output of the old NOAA calculator. The NOAA code is an implementation of the accurate Jean Meeus algorithm for solar time calculations, and the KosherJava code is a Java port of this algorithm. While attempting to debug the issue, I turned to Pinny Markowitz who ported the KosherJava library to both Ruby and Python. He was able to trace the issue to what seemed to be a small accuracy adjustment missing in the noon calculation on the new NOAA implementation. Based on Pinny’s analysis, the old implementation seemed correct, but without confirmation from the NOAA developers this was not a certainty. We reported the issue to NOAA for clarification, and after an almost two-year delay, the NOAA development team confirmed and corrected the bug. After NOAA’s fix there is no longer any discrepancy. The fix can be seen in line 342 of the NOAA JavaScript file, where a half day adjustment is made in the noon time calculation. This bug was never present in the KosherJava library, or other language ports of the KosherJava code, since our code was based on the original NOAA code.

Equinox VS Equilux in Zmanim Calculations

Degree based Zmanim

Degree-based zmanim are considered most accurate by many poskim since zmanim calculated using degrees for alos and tzais have a consistent level of light at all dates and locations. The alternatives of using fixed minutes (for example 72 minutes) or percentage of the day-based calculations (1/10th of the day) result in alos and tzais zmanim having different levels of light at different dates and locations. The number of degrees for a given zman is calculated based on how many degrees the sun is below the horizon on an equal day in Yerushalayim[1]. For example, the sun is 16.1° below the horizon 72 minutes before sunrise (or after sunset)[2] on an equal day (defined below) in Yerushalayim. The subject of degree-based zmanim is extensive and deserves its own detailed article, עוד חזון למועד.

Equinox VS Equilux in Halacha

A question explored by poskim and luach authors is; how we define an equal day to use for degree-based zmanim calculations. Should it be calculated at the astronomically equal day of the equinox or the halachic equal day of the equilux[3]. At the equinox, the 12-hour duration of the day is calculated astronomically without accounting for refraction or solar radius[4]. At the equilux there are exactly 12 hours of daylight from sunrise to sunset. Due to these two factors, the halachic length of the day from sunrise to sunset at the equinox is longer than 12 hours. In Yerushalayim on March 20, 2021, the day of the March equinox, sea level sunrise is at 5:42:51 AM and sunset is at 5:50:33 PM, or a day length of 12 hours, 7 minutes and 42 seconds. You would have to go back four days[5] to March 16, the equilux, for a 12-hour day[6]. There are halachic opinions supporting both the equinox and the equilux as the equal day for zmanim calculations[7].

Practical Differences Between Equinox and Equilux Calculations

Many calendars and seforim list the 72-minute alos / tzais as 16.1° and 90 minutes as 19.8° (using the global refraction average + solar radius of 0.8333). Calculations using the KosherJava Zmanim API (utilizing the Jean Meeus / NOAA algorithms) show that the actual figures are 16.08° and 19.848° at the equilux, and 16.04° and 19.784° at the equinox. The table below shows the difference between these numbers at the summer solstice when twilight is the longest (the most extreme expected gap between two different degree-based times).

Difference Between the Equilux and Equinox Calculations at the Summer Solstice
Location 7.199° VS 7.205° (30 Min)[8] 11.424° VS 11.442° (50 Min) 16.04° VS 16.08° (72 Min) 19.784° VS 19.848° (90 Min)
Lat: 31.7°
2 sec 7 sec 15 sec 26 sec
Lat: 40.1°
2 sec 7 sec 20 sec 38 sec
Lat: 45.5°
3 sec 10 sec 30 sec 90 sec
Lat: 50.05°
3 sec 13 sec 93 sec N/A
Lat: 51.5°
4 sec 16 sec N/A N/A
Lat: 58.68°
13 sec 47 sec N/A N/A
Lat: 61.2°
N/A indicates that the sun does not get this far below the horizon at this time of the year due to the high latitude of the location. See Why Some Zmanim Never Occur for more details.

While the above question is interesting from an academic perspective, the measurements above show a negligible difference between calculating at the equinox VS the equilux for most locations and zmanim. The difference in calculating zmanim up to 16.1° alos / tzais on the equinox vs the equilux isn’t significant until the 30 second difference at the 72-minute zman. Since this is typically calculated as 16.1° lechumra, there is no difference at all for this zman. The less commonly used 19.8°, has an up to 90 second difference (at the latitude of Montreal). The ~11.5° misheyakir times start showing a difference at high latitudes. This is not significant even as far north as London but becomes significant at the 58.68° latitude of Vilna (Vilnius) since it reaches 47 seconds.

Observations on Degree Based Calculations

  • The commonly used 16.1° time is a slightly rounded chumra for both the equinox and equilux. The actual numbers are 16.04° and 16.08°.
  • The 19.8° zman mentioned by many calendars and seforim is calculated at the equinox where it is 19.784° and not equilux where it is 19.848°. It should possibly be rounded up to 19.9° lechumra to account for the equilux calculation[9].
  • The misheyakir 11.5° times are a slight kula since both the equilux (11.442°) and the equinox (11.424°) calculations show a sightly later time.
  • As noted above, the degree-based calculations were done using the more accurate Jean Meeus / NOAA algorithms. Seforim printed in the past did not have access to the newer algorithms and typically used the USNO algorithm, but as seen below, there is only a trivial difference between the algorithms.
  • These were calculated for the year 2021. There will be slight differences from year to year.

Zman Equinox Equilux
30 Min 7.203° 7.199° 7.208° 7.205°
50 Min 11.432° 11.424° 11.449° 11.442°
72 Min 16.055° 16.04° 16.092° 16.08°
90 Min 19.804° 19.784° 19.865° 19.848°
96 Min 21.045° 21.023° 21.116° 21.097°

  1. ^ The assumed location for these calculations in most calendars (and the KosherJava zmanim library) is Yerushalayim, something that is debatable. See Hazmanim Bahalacha 19:2, pages 169-170.
  2. ^ As an example, alos hashachar according to some opinions is 72 minutes before sunrise (the time it takes to walk 4 mil at a speed of 18 minutes per mil). The time of twilight from alos / dawn to sunrise and sunset to tzais / night is known as neshef נשף in Hebrew. The time of twilight differs by location and time of year with the longest duration during the summer solstice, shortest by the equinoxes and somewhere in between in the winter. According to many opinions this zman should be calculated by measuring the sun’s degrees below the horizon at the equal day and applying the same number of degrees to any location and date.
  3. ^ A term coined by astronomers in the 1980s and in “popular” use since ~2006.
  4. ^ It is calculated as if the world had no atmosphere and the radius of the sun is above the horizon.
  5. ^ Rabbi Yedidya Manet mentions that there are 5 to 6 days separating the equinox and equilux, while Rabbi Yonah Merzbach in a letter to Rabbi Manat mentioned a week or two. Calculations show the difference between the equinox and equilux to be 4 days in Yerushalayim, moving the calculation date from March 20th back to March 16th (or from September 22nd to the 26th).
  6. ^ In March 2021 it is 8 seconds off from a true 12-hour day due to the location where the equinox occurs for that season (it is at a single point and time globally), but it is more than close enough for our purposes. The figure varies from year to year. Calculations on the September equinox show similar results.
  7. ^ Rabbi Meir Pozen in his Kuntres Haneshef and Ohr Meir, is of the opinion that the equilux should be used. Opinions that the equinox should be used are brought down by Rabbi Yedidya Manet in his Zmanei Halacha Lema’aseh (4th edition part 2, pages 22 and 24), Rabbi Yonah Merzbach (in a letter published by Rabbi Manat) and Rabbi David Yehuda Burstein in his Zmanim Kehilchasam, 1:8 (pages 56 – 61). This is also the opinion of Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Banish in Hazmanim Bahalacha vol 1, 19:3, page 170, and Rabbi Aryeh Leib Lipkin in his Ohr Hayom, summary section, no. 9 (page 76).
  8. ^ This is close to the 7.083° tzais zman and used for comparison. The 7.083° zman was first brought down by Dr. Baruch (Berthold) Cohn in his luach Tabellen enthaltend die Zeitangaben für den Beginn der Nacht und des Tages für die Breitengrade + 66 bis -38, published in Strasbourg, France in 1899. It was based on actual observation of star visibility. Some list the 7.083° zman as based on the 30-minute calculation, but as seen in the chart, it is not an exact match. In Yerushalayim at the equinox (when there is the smallest difference), 7.083° is 33 seconds earlier than the 30-minute time of 7.199° and in Vilna it is 49 seconds earlier. At the solstice in Yerushalayim 7.083° is 39 seconds earlier than 7.199°, and in Vilna it is 97 seconds earlier.
  9. ^ At this point the KosherJava Zmanim API will continue using the 16.1° (a minor chumra), and 19.8° (a minor kulah at the equilux) used by the Yisrael Vehazmanim and many others.

FAQ: Location Precision for Zmanim Calculations

While overly broad ZIP code based zmanim geolocation can be an issue in calculating zmanim accurately, going overboard in geolocation precision and accuracy for zmanim is a (harmless) waste of time.
Let’s start with the basics. Asking what the zmanim are for the USA is too broad of a location. Narrowing it down to a state is also too broad since zmanim at one side of the state are likely to be different than the other side. How small (or precise) does an area have to be for the zmanim calculated to be considered accurate? The location of zmanim are calculated based on degrees of longitude (east to west) and latitude (north to south).

The earth’s circumference at the equator is about 40,000 km (about 25,000 mi). There are 360 degrees of longitude around the world (The 0° line is centered on the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England, and longitude lines extend 180° to the west and -180° to the east). For simplicity we will deal with longitude degrees at the equator. If we divide the earth’s circumference by 360°, each degree of longitude will be 111 km (69 mi) apart. The sun’s path travels 1° of longitude in 4 minutes, so calculating zmanim with one degree accuracy (no decimal points such as the latitude of 40° and longitude of -74° for Lakewood, NJ, a point in the Atlantic about 3 mi off the coast of Toms River, NJ) results in zmanim accurate to 4 minutes in each direction or an 8 minute spread, not quite accurate enough to rely on. Moving to one decimal point will pinpoint the location for zmanim calculation to an accuracy of 11 km or 48 second accuracy. That is close to being accurate enough, especially given the inaccuracy of solar time calculations resulting from hard to predict refraction caused by varying atmospheric conditions. However, this should be avoided. Adding a second decimal point (such as the latitude of 40.09° and longitude of -74.22° for Lakewood, NJ – a spot at the edge of Lake Carasaljo in Lakewood) would have a precision of about 4 seconds, more than enough accuracy for zmanim.
A concrete example of how zmanim differ from place to place in a small area would be the difference between Beth Medrash Govoha (BMG) and the Westgate Bais Medrash in Lakewood. They are 2.7 km (1.69 mi) or a drop more than 0.01° apart and calculations show that there is about a 6 second difference in sunrise and sunset times between these two locations.

From time to time I am contacted by developers with zmanim related technical questions. Debugging their issues often requires information on the latitude and longitude that they are using to try and replicate the issue. Often the latitude and longitude are sent with multiple decimal points. The most extreme was 14 decimal points. To understand the ridiculousness of this level of precision, see the table below. To read more on the subject, see the Stack Exchange page Measuring accuracy of latitude and longitude? and the xkcd cartoon on the subject.

Decimal places Degrees Distance Notes
0 1 111 km A state or small country
1 0.1 11.1 km City
2 0.01 1.11 km Neighborhood
3 0.001 111 m A specific cul-de-sac
4 0.0001 11 m A corner of a house
5 0.00001 1.1 m A person in a room
6 0.000001 11 cm A small siddur
7 0.0000001 1 cm The size of Waldo on a page
8 0.00000001 1 mm A grain of sand
9 0.000000001 111 μm The width of a hair
10 0.0000000001 11 μm A grain of pollen
11 0.00000000001 1 μm A smoke particle
12 0.000000000001 111 nm The width of a COVID virus
13 0.0000000000001 11 nm A red blood cell
14 0.00000000000001 1 nm The length your nails grow every second
15 0.000000000000001 100 pm An atom. If you need this precision, you probably belong in Lawrence Livermore