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The magic and mystery of leap years

by Christopher Hist

It’s the Roman Empire’s enduring gift to the world – an extra day every four years. A source of mystery, intrigue and controversy and the most colourful date in the calendar.

The ancient Egyptians recognised that the world does not revolve round the Sun every 365 days, but almost a quarter of the day more. The fact that this little bit extra is a smidgeon less than six hours – the Gregorian calendar year is 365 days, five hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds – has, as we shall see, led to much tinkering over the millennia. Moreover, the natural year is changing in length due to predictable factors, such as changing orbit and gravitational drag, and the unpredictable effect of the Earth’s liquid core hitting subterranean mountain ranges and ravines.

Read the original article at: Independent UK

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