Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has made a point of correcting common misconceptions on Twitter — from highlighting scientific inaccuracies in movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Good Dinosaur to debunking flash-in-the-pan trending topics on social media, like the whole craze behind the Dress and rapper B.o.B.'s theory that the Earth is actually flat.
@bobatl Duude - to be clear: Being five centuries regressed in your reasoning doesn't mean we all can't still like your music— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 25, 2016
Now, the scientist has taken on another topic: Leap Day, the extra day added to February that occurs every few years.
The Leap Day is misnamed. We're not leaping anywhere. The calendar is simply, and abruptly, catching up with Earth's orbit— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 29, 2016
According to Gregorian rules, only 1 in 4 century years is a leap year - the rarity of 2000's leap day went largely unnoticed— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 29, 2016
Don't like Leap Days? We could instead wait 28 years and insert a "Leap Week". Or 112 years and insert a "Leap Month".— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 29, 2016
Some followers on Twitter seemed a bit miffed about the tweets, implying that deGrasse Tyson was more or less a killjoy.
@neiltyson if only there was a name for a sudden and abrupt lurch forward— Matt Bruenig (@MattBruenig) February 29, 2016
@neiltyson so it's almost like the calendar...leaps...one extra day, to catch up...— Zee Alexander (@pizzaops) February 29, 2016
.@neiltyson You must be so much fun at parties.— Vikram Murthi (@fauxbeatpoet) February 29, 2016
BAE: I love you— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) February 29, 2016
YOU: I love you too
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Actually your brain is just releasing serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine
However, deGrasse Tyson's tweet wasn't exactly out-of-the-blue: the scientist had filmed a segment for the National Geographic show StarTalks on exactly how the leap year came to be, along with a breakdown of the logic behind it. The video was released on Feb. 27.
So, then, what exactly is a leap day? According to the astrophysicist, it has to do with the way we divide our calendar year and the actual amount of time it takes for the Earth to orbit around the sun — 365 days and one quarter. We get rid of the extra quarter for the purpose of making it more simple, and tack that extra time onto a day in February to make up the difference.
Except, of course, that it's not that simple, as explained by the New York Times: "It actually takes the Earth a bit less than 365¼ days to travel around the sun, so one day is also dropped at the turn of every century, except when that year is divisible by 400."
Tyson did have a special fun fact for some of his Twitter followers — namely, those who were born on Feb. 29, meaning that they only get to celebrate their real leap day-timed birthday once every four years.
If you are born on a Leap Day, you share this distinction with about 1 out of 1,400 people in the world.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 29, 2016