we are at the end of the year, but what is a year?

A year (from Old English gēar) is the orbital period of the Earth moving around the Sun. For an observer on Earth, this corresponds to the period it takes the Sun to complete one course throughout the zodiac along the ecliptic.

In astronomy, the Julian year is a unit of time, defined as 365.25 days of 86400 SI seconds each.[1]

There is no universally accepted symbol for the year as a unit of time. The International System of Units does not propose one. A common abbreviation in international use is a (for Latin annus), in English also y or yr.

Due to the Earth’s axial tilt, the course of a year sees the passing of the seasons, marked by changes in weather, hours of daylight, and consequently vegetation and fertility. In temperate and subpolar regions, generally four seasons are recognized: spring, summer, autumn and winter, astronomically marked by the Sun reaching the points of equinox and solstice, although the climatic seasons lag behind their astronomical markers. In some tropical and subtropical regions it is more common to speak of the rainy (or wet, or monsoon) season versus the dry season.

A calendar year is an approximation of the Earth’s orbital period in a given calendar. A calendar year in the Gregorian calendar (as well as in the Julian calendar) has either 365 (common years) or 366 (leap years) days.

The word “year” is also used of periods loosely associated but not strictly identical with either the astronomical or the calendar year, such as the seasonal year, the fiscal year or the academic year, etc. By extension, the term year can mean the orbital period of any planet: for example, a “Martian year” is the time in which Mars completes its own orbit. The term is also applied more broadly to any long period or cycle, such as the “Great Year”.


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