Time based on the rotation of the Earth with respect to the Sun. Solar time units are slightly longer than sidereal units due to the continuous movement of the Earth along its orbital path. For example, by the time the Earth has completed one full rotation on its axis with respect to the fixed stars, it has also moved a short distance in its orbit and is oriented slightly differently to the Sun, so that it must turn slightly more on its axis to complete a full rotation with respect to the Sun. ◇ The time it takes the Earth to rotate fully with respect to the Sun is called a solar day. The length of a solar day varies throughout the year due to variations in the Earth's orbital speed and other factors. ◇ The average value of all solar days in the solar year is called a mean solar day; it is 24 hours long and by convention is measured from midnight to midnight. ◇ A solar year is the period of time required for the Earth to make a complete orbit with respect to the Sun as measured from one vernal equinox to the next; it is equal to 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45.51 seconds. A solar year is also called an astronomical year and a tropical year. ◇ A solar month is one twelfth of a solar year, totaling 30 days, 10 hours, 29 minutes, 3.8 seconds. Compare sidereal time.
time measured by Earth's rotation relative to the Sun. Apparent solar time is that measured by direct observation of the Sun or by a sundial. Mean solar time, kept by most clocks and watches, is the solar time that would be measured by observation if the Sun traveled at a uniform apparent speed throughout the year rather than, as it actually does, at a slightly varying apparent speed that depends on the seasons. The difference between mean and apparent solar time is known as the equation of time. This is usually expressed as a correction, never exceeding 16 minutes, that is added to or subtracted from apparent solar time to determine mean solar time. The real Sun and the imaginary "mean Sun," from which mean solar time is measured, may be as much as 16 minutes apart because during the course of the year the apparent motion of the real Sun against the background of the stars (the ecliptic) alternately slows down and speeds up. There are two reasons for this. First, the Earth's orbit is not exactly circular, and the Earth moves in it at slightly different speeds in different seasons. Second, the Earth's axis is tilted relative to the plane of the Earth's orbit
Learn more about solar time with a free trial on Britannica.com.