Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

Yesterday, the first of January 2007, at almost 12 noon Greenwich Mean Time, the Earth finished another orbit around the sun. "But wait!" you cry. "Shouldn't that be midnight?"

Our calendar places the new year at midnight local time, yes. But the Earth doesn't take exactly 365 days to circle the sun. It takes almost 6 hours longer than that (More precisely, it takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45.216 seconds to complete a tropical year, but let's not get too picky.) And since this is the second New Year's Day since the last Leap Day, then that adds up to about 12 extra hours. We'll get rid of those extra hours on February 29, 2008.

But no matter when you shouted, "Happy New Year!" I wish you best wishes for the coming year, however you define your year.

Over the holidays, I was visiting much of my family across the United States. And they reminded me how little most people know about the job of an astronomer. This is not because most people are stupid or ignorant or anything like that; it is because the job of the astronomer is different from what most people expect or would guess. My goal with this blog is to illuminate the job of the astronomer and to teach you a little about astronomy and modern science along the way.

If you ever have any questions about anything I post here, if you are uncertain about anything I've written, or if you have any questions about anything, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I'll probably respond, though it can take me a while. Remember, there are no stupid questions! (I wish could promise there would be no stupid answers, but if I'm running low on coffee, or running short on sleep, or my brain has decided to disengage from reality, stupid answers are sometimes the result.)

Happy New Year!

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