There are many ways people celebrate passages of time, especially when one year eases into another. Fireworks go off, pans clank, bells ring out the old to ring in the new, and in Times Square a lit ball drops.
Ball drops to mark time originated in 1833 at the Greenwich Royal Observatory where at one o'clock a bright red ball on a pole above Flamsteed House would drop so passing ships could set their chronometers. In 1904, after the construction of the New York Times building that led to the naming of the square, a massive New Years Eve celebration was given, with fireworks at the stroke of midnight. A few years later in 1907, a 'time ball' was added, made of iron and wood and radiating with 100 incandescent 25 watt bulbs, manually lowered to note the stroke of midnight, and accompanied by fireworks. Later this was changed to drop starting a minute before, reach a halfway point at midnight, and finish a minute later.
Over the years, as a testament to changing lighting technology, the ball has become larger, lighter (and heavier), lit with strobe lighting, mirrors and now LED. Although traditionally the bulbs were white, in the 80's they were lit red with a green corona to match a 'Big Apple' and many people still refer to the event as the 'Apple Drop'. Presently, the ball is a 12 foot wide icosahedral geodesic sphere shape weighing 11,875 pounds, lit by 32,256 LED set around crystal triangles in an aluminum frame, capable of showing any colour in any pattern, to create an explosion of visual delight.
for Mad May's Apple, Artifacts and Light challenge