A day is approximately the period of time during which the Earth completes one rotation around its axis. A solar day is the length of time which elapses between the Sun reaching its highest point in the sky two consecutive times. Days on other planets are defined similarly and vary in length due to differing rotation periods, that of Mars being slightly longer and sometimes called a sol.
In 1960, the second was redefined in terms of the orbital motion of the Earth in the year 1900, and was designated the SI base unit of time. The unit of measurement "day", was redefined as 86,400 SI seconds and symbolized d. In 1967, the second and so the day were redefined by atomic electron transition. A civil day is usually 24 hours, plus or minus a possible leap second in Coordinated Universal Time, and occasionally plus or minus an hour in those locations that change from or to daylight saving time.
Day can be defined as each of the twenty-four-hour periods, reckoned from one midnight to the next, into which a week, month, or year is divided, and corresponding to a rotation of the earth on its axis. However, its use depends on its context; for example, when people say 'day and night', 'day' will have a different meaning: the interval of light between two successive nights, the time between sunrise and sunset; the time of light between one night and the next. For clarity when meaning 'day' in that sense, the word "daytime" may be used instead, though context and phrasing often makes the meaning clear. The word day may also refer to a day of the week or to a calendar date, as in answer to the question, "On which day?" The life patterns of humans and many other species are related to Earth's solar day and the day-night cycle.
Apparent and mean solar daySeveral definitions of this universal human concept are used according to context, need and convenience. Besides the day of 24 hours, the word day is used for several different spans of time based on the rotation of the Earth around its axis. An important one is the solar day, defined as the time it takes for the Sun to return to its culmination point. Because celestial orbits are not perfectly circular, and thus objects travel at different speeds at various positions in their orbit, a solar day is not the same length of time throughout the orbital year. Because the Earth orbits the Sun elliptically as the Earth spins on an inclined axis, this period can be up to 7.9 seconds more than 24 hours. In recent decades, the average length of a solar day on Earth has been about 86,400.002 seconds
and there are currently about 365.242199 solar days in one mean tropical year.
Ancient custom has a new day start at either the rising or setting of the Sun on the local horizon. The exact moment of, and the interval between, two sunrises or sunsets depends on the geographical position, and the time of year.
A more constant day can be defined by the Sun passing through the local meridian, which happens at local noon or midnight. The exact moment is dependent on the geographical longitude, and to a lesser extent on the time of the year. The length of such a day is nearly constant. This is the time as indicated by modern sundials.
A further improvement defines a fictitious mean Sun that moves with constant speed along the celestial equator; the speed is the same as the average speed of the real Sun, but this removes the variation over a year as the Earth moves along its orbit around the Sun.
Stellar dayA day, understood as the span of time it takes for the Earth to make one entire rotation with respect to the celestial background or a distant star, is called a stellar day. This period of rotation is about 4 minutes less than 24 hours and there are about 366.2422 stellar days in one mean tropical year. Other planets and moons have stellar and solar days of different lengths from Earth's.
Besides a stellar day on Earth, there are related such days for bodies in the Solar System other than the Earth.
- Ceres: 9 hours, 4 minutes
- Jupiter: 9 hours, 56 minutes
- Saturn: 10 hours, 33 minutes
- Neptune: 16 hours, 6 minutes
- Uranus: 17 hours, 14 minutes
- Earth: 23 hours, 56 minutes
- Mars: 1 day, 37 minutes
- Pluto: 6 days, 9 hours
- Earth's Moon: 27 days, 7 hours, 12 minutes
- Mercury: 58 days, 15 hours, 30 minutes
- Venus: 243 days
EtymologyThe term comes from the Old English dæg, with its cognates such as dagur in Icelandic, Tag in German, and dag in Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Dutch. All of them from the Indo-European root dyau which explains the similarity with Latin dies though the word is known to come from the Germanic branch., day is the 205th most common word in US English, and the 210th most common in UK English.unit of time in SI units.
In 1967–68, during the 13th CGPM, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures redefined a second as
... the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom.
This makes the SI-based day last exactly 794, 243, 384, 928, 000 of those periods.
Leap secondsMainly due to tidal effects, the Earth's rotational period is not constant, resulting in minor variations for both solar days and stellar "days". The Earth's day has increased in length over time due to tides raised by the Moon which slow Earth's rotation. Because of the way the second is defined, the mean length of a day is now about 86, 400.002 seconds, and is increasing by about 1.7 milliseconds per century. The length of a day circa 620 million years ago has been estimated from rhythmites as having been about 21.9 hours.
In order to keep the civil day aligned with the apparent movement of the Sun, a day according to Coordinated Universal Time can include a negative or positive leap second. Therefore, although typically 86,400 SI seconds in duration, a civil day can be either 86,401 or 86,399 SI seconds long on such a day.
Leap seconds are announced in advance by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, which measures the Earth's rotation and determines whether a leap second is necessary.
Civil dayFor civil purposes, a common clock time is typically defined for an entire region based on the local mean solar time at a central meridian. Such time zones began to be adopted about the middle of the 19th century when railroads with regularly occurring schedules came into use, with most major countries having adopted them by 1929. As of 2015, throughout the world, 40 such zones are now in use: the central zone, from which all others are defined as offsets, is known as, which uses Coordinated Universal Time.
The most common convention starts the civil day at midnight: this is near the time of the lower culmination of the Sun on the central meridian of the time zone. Such a day may be referred to as a calendar day.
A day is commonly divided into 24 hours of 60 minutes, with each minute composed of 60 seconds.
Decimal and metric timeIn the 19th century, an idea circulated to make a decimal fraction of an astronomical day the base unit of time. This was an afterglow of the short-lived movement toward a decimalisation of timekeeping and the calendar, which had been given up already due to its difficulty in transitioning from traditional, more familiar units. The most successful alternative is the centiday, equal to 14.4 minutes, being not only a shorter multiple of an hour but also closer to the SI multiple kilosecond and equal to the traditional Chinese unit, kè.
ColloquialThe word refers to various similarly defined ideas, such as:
; Full day
- 24 hours
- A day counting approximation, for example "See you in three days." or "the following day"
- The full day covering both the dark and light periods, beginning from the start of the dark period or from a point near the middle of the dark period
- A full dark and light period, sometimes called a nychthemeron in English, from the Greek for night-day; or more colloquially the term. In other languages, is also often used. Other languages also have a separate word for a full day.
- Part of a date: the day of the year in ordinal dates, day of the month in calendar dates or day of the week in week dates.
- Time regularly spend at paid work on a single work day, cf. man-day and workweek.
- The period of light when the Sun is above the local horizon
- The time period from 06:00–18:00 or 21:00 or another fixed clock period overlapping or offset from other time periods such as "morning", "evening", or "night".
- The time period from first-light "dawn" to last-light "twilight".
- A specific period of the day, which may vary by context, such as "the school day" or "the work day".
In ancient Egypt, the day was reckoned from sunrise to sunrise. The Jewish day begins at either sunset or nightfall.
Medieval Europe also followed this tradition, known as Florentine reckoning: in this system, a reference like "two hours into the day" meant two hours after sunset and thus times during the evening need to be shifted back one calendar day in modern reckoning. Days such as Christmas Eve, Halloween, and the Eve of Saint Agnes are remnants of the older pattern when holidays began during the prior evening. Prior to 1926, Turkey had two time systems: Turkish and French.
Validity of tickets, passes, etc., for a day or a number of days may end at midnight, or closing time, when that is earlier. However, if a service operates from for example, 6:00 to 1:00 the next day, the last hour may well count as being part of the previous day. For services depending on the day there is a risk of ambiguity. For example, a day ticket on the Nederlandse Spoorwegen is valid for 28 hours, from 0:00 to 28:00 ; the validity of a pass on Transport for London services is until the end of the "transport day" – that is to say, until 4:30 am on the day after the "expires" date stamped on the pass.