Viewing the 1769 King James Version. Click to switch to 1611 King James Version of Job 26:10
He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.
Viewing the 1769 King James Version. Click to switch to 1611 King James Version of Job 38:24
By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
Besides the day of 24 hours (86,400 seconds), 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 the zenith (its highest point in the sky). 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 (or less than) 24 hours. On average over the year this day is equivalent to 24 hours (86,400 seconds).
A day, in the sense of daytime that is distinguished from night-time, is commonly defined as the period during which sunlight directly reaches the ground, assuming that there are no local obstacles. The length of daytime averages slightly more than half of the 24-hour day. Two effects make daytime on average longer than nights. The Sun is not a point, but has an apparent size of about 32 minutes of arc. Additionally, the atmosphere refracts sunlight in such a way that some of it reaches the ground even when the Sun is below the horizon by about 34 minutes of arc. So the first light reaches the ground when the centre of the Sun is still below the horizon by about 50 minutes of arc. The difference in time depends on the angle at which the Sun rises and sets (itself a function of latitude), but can amount to around seven minutes.
Ancient custom has a new day start at either the rising or setting of the Sun on the local horizon (Italian reckoning, for example) The exact moment of, and the interval between, two sunrises or two sunsets depends on the geographical position (longitude as well as latitude), and the time of year. This is the time as indicated by ancient hemispherical sundials.
A more constant day can be defined by the Sun passing through the local meridian, which happens at local noon (upper culmination) or midnight (lower culmination). 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 (24 hours ± 30 seconds). 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 (due to both its velocity and its axial tilt).
The Earth's day has increased in length over time. This phenomenon is 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 day every century ( an average over the last 2,700 years. See tidal acceleration for details. The length of one day has been estimated as 21.9 hours 620 million years ago from rhythmites (alternating layers in sandstone). The length of day for the Earth or Proto-Earth before the event which created our moon by an impact is yet unknown.