How do you measure a year?

A popular song from the musical RENT says there are 525,600 minutes in a year. That answer is right for most calendar years (including 2005 and 2006). A leap year (with February 29 tacked on) has 527,040 minutes. But the time it actually takes the Earth to travel once around the Sun is about 525,948.76 minutes. (That translates to 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Vitaly's picture
Vitaly says:

How do we actually measure one earth rotation around the sun? Is this based on star telemetry and the assumption that distant stars do not move (relative to us), and if so, how much error is there in using the stars as our guides? Thanks!

posted on Mon, 01/02/2006 - 9:32pm
James Satter's picture

Here's some great information from Cornell University's "Curious about Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer" site explaining how astronomers determine the length of a year. This site has other information about astronomical timekeepking as well.

posted on Wed, 01/04/2006 - 2:34pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

huh i dont get does a year really have365 days i thought it was 12 months

posted on Tue, 01/10/2006 - 2:02pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Well, both. A year has 365.25 days which we divide up into 12 months.

posted on Tue, 01/10/2006 - 3:23pm
$$$$'s picture
$$$$ says:

So, what does a leap year actually mean? Do we skip a day?

posted on Sat, 01/28/2006 - 6:10pm
James Satter's picture

It sounds confusing, but instead of skipping a day during leap year, we actually add an extra day (February 29) to the calendar. It takes approximately 365.25 days for the Earth to travel around the Sun, but the typical calendar year has only 365 days. To make up for the "one-fourth day" that gets lost, every four years (with some exceptions) we put 366 days on the calendar as a leap year. The last leap year was 2004, and the next one will be 2008.

posted on Sat, 01/28/2006 - 9:01pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

That song is cool! I haven't seen RENT though...

posted on Sun, 02/12/2006 - 5:02pm
James Satter's picture

Titled Seasons of Love, the song from RENT also lists many subjective ways to measure a year, including cups of coffee, laughter, and strife.

posted on Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:25pm
Eric Walter's picture
Eric Walter says:


In the Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar used by most modern countries, the following rules decide which years are leap years:

  1. Every year divisible by 4 is a leap year.
  2. But every year divisible by 100 is NOT a leap year.
  3. Unless the year is also divisible by 400, then it is still a leap year.

This means that year 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are not leap years, while year 2000 and 2400 are leap years.

This actually means year 2000 is kind of special, as it is the first time the third rule is used in many parts of the world.

posted on Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:46am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

that song is way wrong we had to learn it for music and melissa was gonna have to do the solo but she is trying to make me do it but she will have to do it in the end anyway now we no the real words to the song.

posted on Wed, 10/11/2006 - 9:38pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Omg...I am not good at math...Yall are nerds

posted on Thu, 06/21/2007 - 1:21am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

oh.. I remember that song my brother used to sing it nonstop.

NOW IT'S STUCK IN MY HEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Fri, 06/29/2007 - 5:32pm
angelo's picture
angelo says:

can any 365 days constitute a year? the veterans affairs is giving me a hassle about a claim having to be two calendar years.

posted on Sun, 08/05/2007 - 1:11pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

ok seriously! come on we dont really care. the song explains it so thats all we need

posted on Fri, 08/31/2007 - 6:59pm
Anonymous Wonder 4444's picture
Anonymous Wonder 4444 says:

Seasons of Love is probably one of my favorite songs ever because it tells many truths about life, especially how to measure a year in life. Jonathan Larson offers many possible ways to measure a year, but the most remarkable one he mainly focused on was measuring a year in love. Measure your life in love. We all thank him for that and his wonderful Broadway and Television musical RENT.

posted on Sun, 03/23/2008 - 9:43pm

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