By Ashley Conde ’17
Why do we have Leap Year? Exactly what is the purpose of adding an extra day to the year? These questions could be a source of existential angst for some. Yet, most people unquestioningly accept the inclusion of February 29th every four years. The strange phenomenon of Leap Year serves to avoid calendar chaos and can be understood on scientific terms.
A solar year is 365.25 days, not 365 days, because the Earth travels around the sun in an elliptical fashion. It is thus necessary to add an extra day to keep the calendar and solar years in sync. A Leap Year is omitted three times every 400 years because the length of the solar year is less than 365.25 days by about 11 minutes.
Dr. Steve Barrett of the Department of Physics at the University of Liverpool offers a logical explanation for Leap Year: “If we adopt a calendar which is exactly 365 days long, then over a long period of time, the calendar will slowly slip out of step with the Earth moving around the sun. And so the seasons will occur at different times of the calendar year,” he writes.
So there you have it: A Leap Year prevents the new year from being celebrated at 6 a.m. and ensures that the seasons are in sync.
Happy Leap Day!
photo from tangischools.org