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A solar calendar is a calendar whose dates indicate the season or almost equivalently the position of the apparent position of the sun in relative to the stars. The Gregorian calendar, widely accepted as standard in the world, is an example of solar calendar. The main other type of calendar is a lunar calendar, whose months correspond to cycles of moon phases. The months of the Gregorian calendar do not correspond to cycles of moon phase.
The oldest solar calendars include the Julian calendar and the Coptic calendar. They both have a year of 365 days, which is extended to 366 once every four years, without exception, so have a mean year of 365.25 days. As solar calendars became more accurate, they evolved into two types.
Tropical solar calendarsEdit
If the position of the earth in its orbit around the sun is reckoned with respect to the equinox, the point at which the orbit crosses the celestial equator, then its dates accurately indicate the seasons, that is, they are synchronized with the declination of the sun. Such a calendar is called a tropical solar calendar.
The following are tropical solar calendars:
- Ancient Armenian calendar
- Gregorian calendar
- Bengali calendar (National and official calendar in Bangladesh)
- Iranian calendar (Jalāli calendar)
- Indian national calendar (Saka calendar)
The Baha'i calendar begins the year on the vernal equinox and (as of 2015) sets its intercalary days so that the following year also begins on the vernal equinox. The moment of the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere is determined as at Tehran "by means of astronomical computations from reliable sources". °
Sidereal solar calendarsEdit
If the position of the earth (see above) is reckoned with respect to the fixed stars, then the dates indicate the zodiacal constellation near which the sun can be found. A calendar of this type is called a sidereal solar calendar.
The mean calendar year of such a calendar approximates the sidereal year.
Indian calendars like the Hindu calendar, Tamil calendar, Bengali calendar (non-revised) and Malayalam calendar are sidereal solar calendars. The Thai solar calendar, when based on the Hindu solar calendar was also a sidereal calendar. They are calculated on the basis of the apparent motion of the sun through the twelve zodiacal signs rather than the tropical movement of the earth.
The Islamic calendar, which is a purely lunar calendar and has a year, whose start drifts through the seasons and so is not a solar calendar. The Maya Tzolkin calendar, which follows a 260-day cycle, has no year, so is not a solar calendar. Also any calendar calendars synchronized only to the synodic period of Venus would not be solar.
Lunisolar calendars may be regarded as solar calendars, although their dates additionally indicate the moon phase. Because a typical lunisolar calendar has a year made up of a whole number of lunar months, it can't indicate the position of Earth on its revolution around the sun as well as a pure solar calendar can.