2008-02-28 / Editorial

Tomorrow is a rare day for our calendar

Tomorrow is Friday, Feb. 29, 2008. You may remember that February usually has 28 days. This year is different because every few years we add an extra day to the month of February for astronomical bookkeeping reasons.

Feb. 29 is necessary because our calendar is not entirely accurate. We have to adjust our calendar to keep it in alignment with the cosmos. Just a tweak to keep things running smoothly.

Tomorrow is that rare day - which happens every four years or so. It is called Leap Day. It would probably make more sense to call it Alignment Day but for some reason Leap Day was chosen. This year is known as Leap Year.

According to our calendar, one year equals 365 days. However, it really takes the earth 365.2422 days to complete its full orbit around the sun.

If we didn't throw in the Leap Day every few years it wouldn't take long for the calendar to get out of whack. In the short span of 100 years, the calendar would be 24 days ahead of the seasons. Then we would all be confused.

Why do we keep using an inaccurate calendar?

Well, it turns out that the workings of our solar system and the universe are a bit difficult to pack into a simple calendar. There have been many different calendars developed throughout the years and they all have the same problem. Some calendars add a leap month every few years. There are no perfect calendars.

So we keep using our present calendar. We know how to fix it when it needs fixing.

Like the Blue Moon, when there is an extra full moon during a calendar year, the Leap Day is another of our astronomical oddities.

- Jeff McDonough

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