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Why don’t we have a leap year in 2023?

By Aleah Jinks and Layla Snow Cady, students at MGMS

A leap happens every four years. The last leap year was on Feb. 29, 2020, and the next leap year will occur on Feb. 29, 2024. 

In a regular year, January to December, there are 365 days; however, every four years, February has 29 days instead of 28. That means there will be an extra day. This is called a leap year.

The reason for a leap year is because the Earth takes approximately 365.25 days to orbit the sun once. That creates the need for a leap year every four years. During non-leap years, regular years like 2022, the calendar doesn’t take into account the extra quarter of a day required by Earth to complete one orbit.

If we did not have a leap day on Feb. 29 every four years, the calendar would lose about six hours every single year; so, after only 100 years, our calendar would be off by around 24 days. 

In 45 B.C., Julius Caesar demanded a calendar consisting of twelve months based on a solar year. This calendar worked by a cycle of three years of 365 days, followed by a year of 366 days. Historians believe keeping time goes as far back as the Neolithic period, but actual calendars weren’t around until the Bronze Age in 3100 BC. The Sumerians in Mesopotamia made the very first calendar, which divided a year into 12 lunar months, each having 29 to 30 days.

A lunar month is around 29.5 days, and is equal to the time the moon takes to pass through all of its phases. The exact length can change because the orbit of the moon is an elliptical shape. The moon’s orbit is elliptical, sometimes it is closer or farther away from the Earth. The longest lunar month takes place when two new moons are close to the peak, which is the moon’s farthest point from Earth in its orbit. Oppositely, when the New Moons take place close to perigee, the moon’s closest point to Earth, the shortest lunar month occurs. The reason when the moon travels more quickly along is because its orbit is closer to Earth. 

According to ancient myths, Romulus, the founder of Rome, instituted the calendar in about 738 B.C.E. This dating system, however, was probably a result of evolution from the Greek lunar calendar, which in turn was derived from the Babylonian.

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