Once every four years, at least in most cases, humanity adds an extra day to our calendar year to help save time: Leap Day. February 29 is a rare day that will make our lives happier, but it also plays a very important role: keeping our annual calendar and passing seasons in line with very long periods of time. Although there is a strange origin of history and a series of urban legends around it, Leap Day exists for scientific reasons, not superstition.
Without Leap Day, planetary physics would cause seasons to fall out of phase with our annual calendar, and equinoxes and solstices could roam in days, months, and seasons. In fact, if they did the Leap Day every four years without fail, things would not go well, either. Only if we properly account for the axial rotation of the earth and the transformation of the Sun can we keep our calendar, and that is what Leap Day means. Here are eight scientific facts that everyone should know.
1.) No 24 hours daily. The Earth’s movement has two basic components: our orbit around our axis and our orbit around the Sun. Usually, we think of our cycle as 24 hours long, which is why the day is 24 hours, and our change requires 365 days, which is why a year has 365 days in length.
Only, these results are inseparable, as both suggestions are always possible. If the earth were completely straight, it would stay in the same position, and a perfect rotation of all 360 degrees would be equivalent to a day. But that total 360 ° rotation is not a day: it is very small by two metrics. First, it takes the earth only 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds to rotate 360 °. But secondly, because the Earth moves in space in its orbit around the Sun, it should rotate slightly to add the Sun to the same position as it did the day before. That extra movement is what makes the days, on average, 24 hours.
2.) Some days are actually longer than others. Have you ever wondered why the recent sunrise and sunset do not occur on a summer day, and why do the latest sunrise and sunset not coincide with the winter solstice? This is because the Earth orbits Sun-like an ellipse, which means that the closer the Earth is to the Sun (perihelion), the faster it travels, and the farther away from the Sun (aphelion), the slower it moves.
The fact that the perihelion/aphelion is not fully compatible with solstices or equinoxes, and you will realize that some days are less than normal hours and others are more. The usual 24-hour day is just the middle of every day of the year, and even then, it doesn’t fit well.
3.) The earth that completes the same cycle around the Sun does not include a calendar year. In astronomy, as in mathematics, a complete change is defined as when the Earth returns to the same position it was in the space of 360 ° orbit ago. In astronomy, this is called sidereal (sigh-DEER-ee-ul), or the time the earth takes to return to the same place.
But a year apart is not the same as a calendar (also known as a tropical area). The Earth rotates on its axis while orbiting the Sun, and that axis moves forward over time, meaning that the Earth is oriented in relation to the Sun when it completes one astronomical change compared to the previous year. The difference between the sidereal year and the tropical year is only about 20 minutes but that means that the calendar year, which you need to make consecutive seasons, is actually 20 minutes shorter than the total revolution around the Sun.
4.) The combined effects of axial Earth rotation, orbital revolution, and forecasting provide an unequal number of days in a year. Now we come to wonderful things. If you do the calculations as far as we know, you find that there are 365.242188931 days in the true calendar year. This is not the same number. If we had 365 days a year each year, every passing century would have been a waste of our calendar for almost a month.
If we set one day of Leap every four years, we would have 365.25 days a year, which is very close but not very good. In fact, this is what the old Julian Calendar did, which we have followed for 1,600 years, to account for those years. By the end of the 1500s, the difference was so great (our calendar had been closed for about ten days), that the calendar needed to be updated.
In Italy, Poland, Spain, and Portugal, the days of October 5 to 14, 1582, never occurred. Some countries have exceeded those ten days over time; Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day in England only because they had not passed away in 1642. Elsewhere in the world, Newton was born on January 4, 1643.
5.) The Gregorian calendar tells of unusual Leap Days. The way we deal with the inconsistency of our calendar year with the needs of integrated Earth movements is brilliant and very simple:
every year divided by 4 is a leap year, unless it is also divided by 100 but not 400, then it is not a year of skipping. This means that 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, etc., will all be years of decomposition because everything is divided into 4. But if your year marks a turn of the century, it is only a year of jumping if you are also divided by 400. The year 2000 was a year of connections, but 1900 did not exist and 2100 would not be. In total, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar gives us 365,2425 days a year, which means we will not be out for even one day until more than 3,200 years, during which time we may want to skip another Leap day down the road.
If we were to subtract the annual difference of 3200 from Leap Day, we would not travel in one day until ~ 700,000 years.
6.) In the long run, we will have to change our calendar again. If everything were consistent – our rotation scale, our axial position, and our rotation around the Sun – this calendar would be complete, but only for now. Every time there is an earthquake, our rate of rotation slows down, but that effect is fraught with the effects of the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon on the earth, which slows us down.
The effect of slowing down is known as taking braking, with watches at an average of 14 microseconds a year. That may seem like a small thing, but in the long run, it does add up. If we examine the daily patterns that waves have inflicted on our soil from time immemorial, known as the rhythmites, we can calculate what the earth’s rotation rate has been. 620 million years ago, just before the Cambrian eruption, our day was slightly less than 22 hours long, which means that back when the Earth was created, the day was just 6 to 8 hours long. Increasing days mean that, as time goes on, we will need a few more days to complete the hot year.
7.) In about four million years to come, Leap Days will be useless. This strangely slow effect of wave brakes will begin to gain importance as the millenniums continue to fade. While at the moment, I only add one-second leap every 18 months or so to keep us afloat, the day continues to belong. After another four million years on Earth, the day will be extended by another 56 seconds: the exact amount needed for a hot year is exactly 365 days.
As that time draws to a close, we will want to start reducing the number of Leap days and then discard them completely, as they will be completely needed. If people are still there and keeping calendars at that time, we will want to think about more going on, as we will need to start skipping days (in the case of a recurring Leap Day) to keep our seasons in line with our calendar.
8.) The final outcome of the Earth-Moon system will be radically different from what we are experiencing today. As the effect of the tide continues, not only will the earth’s orbit be lower but the moon’s growth on the Earth. In a few hundred million years (but less than one billion), the Moon will be so far away from the Earth that there will be no complete eclipse; all will be deleted instead.
If we think that we are surviving the transformation of the Sun into a great combination of great white and red vegetables/planet, the day on earth and the time of the Moon around us will be much simpler: until they both take about 47 of our days, which will happen ~ 50 billion years in the future. Instead of the same permanent face of the Moon pointing to the rotating Earth, the Moon and Earth will be locked in each other, just as Pluto and Charon have each other today.
We should love Leap days; without the leap days, the earth’s solstices, equinoxes, and equations could all change over time, rather than on the same time year after year. At the same time, however, we should also be aware that the length of the day is not permanent, just as the number of days in a year is not always constant. As time goes on and the earth rotates slowly, we will need a few days and a few days to make a full calendar year, which means we will need a constantly changing calendar system.
But in the meantime, enjoy your extra day this year but then you see fit and remember that without these Big Days, our calendar would just not fit together.
Things You May Not Know About Leap Day – History
Close to every four years, we add one more extra day to the calendar on February 29, also known as Leap Day. Simply put, these 24 additional hours are built into the calendar to ensure that they are in line with the movement of the Earth around the Sun. While the modern calendar contains 365 days, the actual time it takes on Earth to orbit is longer – about 365.2421 days. The difference may seem trivial, but over the decades and hundreds of years that quarter of a day lost in a year can add up. To ensure consistency and true star year, it is necessary to periodically add an extra day to make up for lost time and restore the calendar to align with the skies.
Many ancient calendars had complete months of connection
Many calendars, including the Hebrew, Chinese and Buddhist calendars, are lunisolar, meaning that their dates reflect the position of the Moon and the location of the Earth-related to the sun. Since there is a natural gap of about 11 days in the year as measured by lunar cycles and one measured by the earth’s rotation, such calendars occasionally require the addition of additional months, known as intermediate or previous months, to keep them in line.
The convening months, however, were unusual. Historians still do not know how the early Romans maintained their age, especially since the Romans themselves were not entirely sure. It seems that the first Roman calendar had ten months and vague winter solstice, the length of which varied from year to year. Eventually, this uncertain period was replaced by the new months of January and February, but the situation remained difficult. They used the 23-day month known as Mercedonius to respond to the difference between their year and the solar year, not including the months but during the month of February for reasons that may be related to the lunar cycles.
To make matters worse, the decision on when to hold Mercedonius often fell to ambassadors, who used their power to reduce or extend the year for their political purposes. As a result, in the time of Julius Caesar, the Roman year and the solar year were no longer completely compatible.
Julius Caesar launched Leap Day, with help from Egypt …
The Mercedonius system — where we feel — is apparently offended by Caesar, the emperor-turned-emperor who became the Roman emperor who radically changed the course of European history. In addition to conquering Gaul and transforming Rome from the republic to an empire, Caesar also decreed the Roman calendar, giving us a plan that still applies to most of the world to this day.
During his stay in Egypt, Caesar was pleased with the rise of the Egyptian solar calendar, which consisted of 365 days and a lunar eclipse when the astronomers observed the precise conditions in the stars. Caesar and the philosopher Sosigenes of Alexandria made one significant change: instead of depending on the stars, they added one day to all four years.
According to the Roman tradition of mixing with the length of February, that day would be the second month of the year – hence Leap Day was born. Caesar added two more months to the year 46 BCE to make this absence, and the Julian Calendar went into effect on January 1, 45 BCE
By the 16th century, scholars were aware that time was running out for them – Caesar’s calculation of the year 365.25 days was approaching, but he calculated the solar year by 11 minutes. This was a problem for the Catholic Church, as the day of Easter had moved away from its traditional place, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the equinox, about ten days. Pope Gregory XIII sent a modified calendar, one that kept Leap Day but calculated the inaccuracies by finishing it in the 400th century (1700, 1800, and 1900 were not years of dissolution, but 2000 was the case). The introduction of the Gregorian Calendar marked the last change in the Western calendar as we know it today.
Leap Day is often associated with marriage, proposals and clicks on gender roles
Interestingly, many Leap Day traditions focus on romance and marriage. Tradition has it that in 5th-century Ireland, St. Bridget cried at St. Patrick said women are not allowed to propose marriage to men. So the legend says that St. Patrick chose the only day that would not happen every year, February 29, as the day when women would be allowed to raise men. In some places, Leap Day is thus known as Bachelor’s Day.
The custom tossed the Irish Sea to Scotland and England, where the British added to the turmoil – if a man refused a woman’s request, he owed her a few good pipes, perhaps to hide the fact that he had not promised a ring. According to Greek tradition, it is considered unlucky to marry on Leap Day, and statistics show that Greek couples continue to take this superstition seriously.
People born on Leap Day are called ‘Leaplings’
There are only about 5 million people worldwide born on February 29, with a probability of being born on Leap Day standing at about 1-in-1,461. Several celebrities — including actor and musician Dinah Shore (born 1916), inspiring speaker Tony Robbins (born 1960), and hip-hop artist Ja Rule (born 1976) —connected. The Leaplings mainly celebrate their birthdays once every four years but become part of the elite group.
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