February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Year!


2008 is a leap year, with 366 days instead of the usual 365 days.Why? It was the ancient Egyptians who first figured out that the solar year and the man-made calendar year didn't always match up. That's because it actually takes the Earth a little longer than a year to travel around the Sun — 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, to be exact. Therefore, as the hours accumulated over the centures, an extra day was occasionally added to the calendar, and over time the practice became more or less official. It was the Romans who first designated February 29 as leap day. Later, a more precise formula (still in use today) was adopted in the 16th century when the Gregorian calendar fine-tuned the calculations to include a leap day in years only divisible by four, i.e., 2008, 2012. Another stipulation ruled that no year divisible by 100 would have a leap year, except if it was divisible by 400. Thus, 1900 was not a leap year ... but 2000 was! Go figure. Thankfully, all this intricate plotting will continue to keep us in tune with the seasons over the next several thousand years. According to astrologers, those born under the sign of Pisces on February 29 have unusual talents and personalities reflecting their special status. Most have to wait every four years to "officially" observe their birthdays, but leap year babies typically choose either February 28 or March 1 to celebrate in years that aren't leap years.