Why Do Leap Years Happen? Here's What To Know About Feb. 29

If the month of February seems like it's dragging on for longer than usual, that's because, well, it is. The year 2016 is a leap year, meaning we all get an entire extra 24 hours to enjoy this month. But while this additional calendar day comes about every four years, some of you may still not know why leap years happen. I get it — Leap Day isn't exactly something that's on many people's radar, unless of course you happen to be a leap year baby (hello, leaplings!), in which case Leap Day is a rare occasion for you to celebrate your birthday on your actual birthday. But for the rest of us? It's easy to forget about Leap Day in the shuffle between Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day.

So why exactly do we have leap years? An extra day is added to the end of February every four years in order to account for the solar system's disparity with the calendar. While we all learned in school that it takes 365 days for the Earth to travel around the sun, it actually takes a total of 365.2422 days to make the complete orbit. To make up for the extra time, an extra day is added to the calendar every four years. That keeps our calendars in sync with the Earth, and is the reason that seasons occur at the same time each year. Here's what else you need to know about Feb. 29, otherwise known as Leap Day:

1. Why do Leap Days fall in February?

While all the other months in the calendar have 30 or 31 days, February only has 28. The month was shortened by Emperor Caesar Augustus, who added two days to "his" month in order to make August the same length as Julius Caesar's month, July.

2. How do you calculate a Leap Day?

Leap Days occur every four years, but if you can't keep track, here's a trick: Leap Days occur in most years that are divisible by four, such as 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, etc. But there are some exceptions: Leap Days do not always occur in years that are evenly divisible by 100, but do occur in those that are divisible by 400. So 2000 was a leap year, but 1900 was not.

3. When is the next Leap Day?

The next Leap Day is four years from now (aka a year that is divisible by four): Feb. 29, 2020. So enjoy this year's extra day, because it will be a while before it comes around again. Happy Leap Day!

Image: Pixabay; Giphy