IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


3rd January, 2024 MISCELLANEOUS


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Context: 2024 is a leap year, which means that it has one extra day in February. This is because the Earth's orbit around the Sun is not exactly 365 days, but slightly longer. To keep the calendar in sync with the seasons, we add a leap day every four years, except in some cases when we skip it. The leap year helps us maintain accuracy in our timekeeping and astronomical observations.

Leap Year

  • A leap year has 366 days, with an extra day added to February (February 29), deviating from the regular 365-day year.
  • The Leap Year concept was introduced to account for the Earth's orbit taking approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to revolve around the Sun. Without leap years, gradual misalignments in crop cycles and seasons would occur.

Origin and History

  • Scholars engaged by Julius Caesar introduced the leap year in 46 BC, later refined in 12 AD. The Julian calendar added an extra day every four years. In the 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII addressed accumulated discrepancies by dropping 10 days from the calendar in 1582.

Gregorian Calendar Adjustments

  • Leap years were adjusted to not occur every four years universally. Approximately one leap year per century was dropped, especially those ending with '00'. To maintain precision, '00' years divisible by 400 were retained as leap years. For example, 1900 was not a leap year, but 2000 was.

Duration of Leap Year Cycle

  • Leap years are not a strict every-four-year occurrence due to adjustments, ensuring better synchronization between the calendar year and the actual solar year.
  • The additional day in a leap year helps align the calendar with the Earth's orbit more accurately, preventing seasonal drift and maintaining temporal coherence in various human activities.


Q. Why do we have leap years?

A) To align the calendar with lunar cycles

B) To account for the Earth's slightly longer orbit around the Sun

C) To celebrate historical events

D) To adjust for seasonal changes

Answer: B


Leap years are introduced to account for the fact that Earth's orbit around the Sun takes approximately 365.25 days, so an extra day (February 29th) is added every four years to keep our calendar in sync with the solar cycle.