Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An apparent sidereal day is the time it takes for the Earth to turn 360 degrees in its rotation; more precisely, is the time it takes a typical star to make two successive upper meridian transits. This is slightly shorter than a solar day. There are 366.2422 sidereal days in a tropical year, but 365.2422 solar days, resulting in a sidereal day of 86,164.09 seconds (or: 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.09 seconds).
The reason there is one more sidereal day than "normal" days in a year is that the Earth's orbit around the Sun offsets one sidereal day, giving observers on Earth 365 1/4 days, even though the planet itself rotated 366 1/4 times (the Earth rotates in the same direction around its axis as it does around the Sun: seen from the northern sky, counter-clockwise).
A mean sidereal day is reckoned, not from the actual transit, but from the transit of the mean vernal equinox (see: mean sun).
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