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2012 is a Leap Year!

February 23, 2012

The Earth's motion around the sun to help explain the need for a Leap Year.

Why do we need a Leap Year?

Leap Years are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun.
It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days to circle once around the Sun.

However, the Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year, so if we didn’t add a day on February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days!

Who invented Leap Years?

Julius Caesar introduced Leap Years in the Roman empire over 2000 years ago, but they followed the Julian calendar and it only had one rule: any year evenly divisible by 4 would be a leap year. This lead to way too many leap years, but didn’t get corrected until the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar by Pope Gregory XII more than 1500 years later. In 1582 Italy, Portugal and Poland adopted the new Gregorian calendar.  Great Britain and America did not adopt it until 1752 – and they had to drop 11 to have the calendars on the same day! Amazing. The new calendar had 3 rules for determining if it was a leap year:

  • The year is evenly divisible by 4;
  • If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year, unless;
  • The year is also evenly divisible by 400. Then it is a leap year.

This means that 2000 and 2400 are leap years, while 1800, 1900210022002300 and 2500 are NOT leap years.

The year 2000 was somewhat special as it was the first instance when the third criterion was used in most parts of the world since the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

A leap year consist of 366 days, as opposed to a common year, which has 365 days. During Leap Years, we add a Leap Day, an extra  day on February 29. Nearly every 4 years is a Leap Year in our modern calendar.

Information taken from time and date.com

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