For example: a double star goes into eclipse every 1583.6 days and its last mid-eclipse was measured to be on October 17, 2003 at UTC. Well, you could get out your calendar and count days, but it's far easier to convert all the quantities in question to Julian day numbers and simply add or subtract.
Julian days simply enumerate the days and fraction which have elapsed since the start of the in the Julian calendar.
The calendar thus accumulates one day of error with respect to the solar year every 128 years.
Being a purely solar calendar, no attempt is made to synchronise the start of months to the phases of the Moon.
But the Julian day notation is so deeply embedded in astronomy that it is unlikely to be displaced at any time in the foreseeable future.
It is an ideal system for storing dates in computer programs, free of cultural bias and discontinuities at various dates, and can be readily transformed into other calendar systems, as the source code for this page illustrates.
Since no such objects existed prior to October 4, 1957, all satellite-related MJDs are positive.
Britain and her colonies (including what is now the United States), did not switch to the Gregorian calendar until 1752, when Wednesday 2nd September in the Julian calendar dawned as Thursday the 14th in the Gregorian.This date is defined in terms of a cycle of years, but has the additional advantage that all known historical astronomical observations bear positive Julian day numbers, and periods can be determined and events extrapolated by simple addition and subtraction.Julian dates are a tad eccentric in starting at noon, but then so are astronomers (and systems programmers!)—when you've become accustomed to rising after the “crack of noon” and doing most of your work when the Sun is down, you appreciate recording your results in a calendar where the date doesn't change in the middle of your workday.But even the Julian day convention bears witness to the eurocentrism of 19th century astronomy—noon at Greenwich is midnight on the other side of the world.