All About The Leap Year

First published: February 28, 2012 in Featured Articles

Last Updated: March 3, 2012 1:06 pm Tough to read? Print this! Tough to read? Print this! Email This Email This
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This is the year that has an extra day – February 29th. Do you ever wonder why that happens and why it happens every 4 years?

I did a little research to be able to explain it simply and understand it clearly – that was the idea.

So – this is the year that will synchronize the calendar year with the astronomical – or the solar year. By having the date of February 29th every four years, the fact that 365 day period, the calendar of is actually short by 6 hours each year of the solar year. That is basically because the Earth doesn’t orbit around the sun in exactly 365 days. That is why the decision has been made to add a day to every year that is divisible by 4. Sounds easy – right?

It gets a little bit more complicated, depending on where you live and which calendar you observe. I am not going to do into details because others have done that much better than I can – if you want to check out all the calendars and things like associated algorithms, check out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_year

Simply – here is what would happen if there was no leap year:

Over the course of a century, the difference between the solar year and calendar year would become 25 days, so instead of summer beginning in June, it wouldn’t start until nearly a month later

It would all be pretty simple if the solar year would exactly 365 -1/4 days long –all we would have to do is add that one day every four years, but wouldn’t you know –  it isn’t quite that. The solar year is actually 11 minutes and 14 seconds less than 365 – ¼ days. What does that mean? Well – even if you add a leap year every four years, the calendar year will still overshoot the solar year by 11 minutes and 14 seconds per year. But – it would take 128 years when the calendar year gains an extra day. So – the creators of our calendar (that is the Gregorian calendar) put their heads together and decided that to omit leap year every four hundred years. And that will get rid of the excess if the pesky 11 minutes and 14 seconds – good to know.

But – in addition to this, new rule has been added: A century leap year is not a leap years unless it is evenly divisible by 400. This additional rule will eliminate 3 leap years every few hundred years.

And now that calendar is just perfect – or is it? Nope! The truth is that the calendar year and the solar year are still about half a minute off. But since it would take 3,300 years for the calendar to be off by a day – we are just not going to worry about it!

Hope you enjoyed this information – I welcome your comments, suggestions and experiences anytime, your input is much appreciated!

 

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