Physicists explains leap year - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Physicists explains leap year

Every four years politicians get an extra day of campaigning, women can propose to men per tradition, and  February is one day longer. That day is today, leap day, but why do we need February 29th?

According to Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Chris Sirola,  it all started with the Egyptians.

"The solar calendar that we use comes originally from the ancient Egyptians," said Sirola.

Sirola, says the formation of the leap year started with the Egyptians observing the sun and determining a year was 365 days long.

"So, they had a 365 day calendar, and then five extra days of a festival at the end of the year. That worked ok, but it turns out it's a little bit longer than that about a quarter of a day extra," said Sirola.

Fast forward to Julius Caesar. He adopted the Egyptian calendar and decided to make it more in line with the seasons. So, his astronomers added the extra day every four years to make up the difference.

"That is where the leap year and leap day ideas actually comes from, and so every four years like 2012, we have an extra day," said Sirola.

The science behind leap year isn't complete, because with Caesar's method there is too much time adding up. The Gregorian Calendar, which was made in the 1500's fix that problem. It subtracted three leap years from every four centuries. Doing this gets us in line with the solar calendar within seconds.

"So in the year 2000 we did have a leap day. It was a regular leap day, but if we are here in the year 2100 there will not be a leap day," said Sirola.

With all this skipping around, what happens to the birthday of the babies born on the 29th? I decided to ask the parents of Rhyan Madison Sanford, who was born today at 12:37 p.m.

"We are probably going to do them on March 1st the years that it's not a leap year, and then have a February 29th birthday when it's that time," said Morgan Sanford, mother of baby Rhyan Madison.

Copyright 2012 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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