Today is Leap Day! February 29 is a date that usually occurs every four years, and is called leap day. This day is added to the calendar in leap years as a corrective measure, because the Earth does not orbit the sun in precisely 365 days.
According to Wikipedia, “A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or a bissextile year) is a year containing one additional day (or, in the case of lunisolar calendars, a month) added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars that have the same number of days in each year drift over time with respect to the event that the year is supposed to track. By inserting (also called intercalating) an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected. A year that is not a leap year is called a common year.
The name “leap year” comes from the fact that while a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar normally advances one day of the week from one year to the next, the day of the week in the 12 months following the leap day (from March 1 through February 28 of the following year) will advance two days due to the extra day (thus “leaping over” one of the days in the week).
The same type of problem happens in the relationship between the day and the number of seconds in the day: If you divide the larger measure of time by the smaller, you do not get a whole number. Instead, the result is an unending decimal. There is no way to perfectly fit a whole number of seconds into a day, nor is there a way to perfectly fit a whole number of days/months into a year. As leap years are used to correct calendar drift, the resulting drift in measuring the diurnal cycle is corrected by the use of leap seconds.”
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