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Monday, March 21, 2016
ABOUT TIME / EQUINOX, SOLSTICE EXPLAINED
Equinox and Solstice are
such cool words but when I was asked to explain the difference to a grandson
recently I had to evoke my usual change-the-subject ruse by saying “how about
those Padres?You think they’ll win the
pennant this year?”
for more expert definitions, I discovered an outstanding website called www.timeanddate.com, which kindly
explained most of the following.
lesson learned is realizing the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring) doesn’t
always occur on the same day.For
example, this year’s Spring Equinox occurred on last Saturday, March 19 at 9:30
pm Pacific Daylight Time.
let’s return to the gnawing question what’s an equinox?Timeanddate.com explains the March equinox
marks the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in
the sky above the Earth’s equator – from south to north. This happens on March
19, 20 or 21 every year.
Equator passes through downtown Nyahururu, Kenya
Quito, Ecuador looking West
and solstices are opposite on either side of the equator, and the March equinox
is also known as the "spring (vernal) equinox" in the Northern
Hemisphere and as the "autumnal (fall) equinox" in the Southern
Why is it called
the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the same length – 12 hours – all
over the world. This is the reason it's called an “equinox”, derived from
Latin, meaning "equal night". However, in reality equinoxes don't
have exactly 12 hours of daylight.
Why is it called a
word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still),
because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the
seasonal movement of the Sun's path (as seen from Earth) comes to a figurative stop
before reversing direction.
What Happens on the
Earth's axis is always tilted at an angle of about 23.4° in relation to the
ecliptic, the imaginary plane created by the Earth's path around the Sun. On
any other day of the year, either the Southern Hemisphere or the Northern
Hemisphere tilts a little towards the Sun. But on the two equinoxes, the tilt
of the Earth's axis is perpendicular to the Sun's rays, like the illustration
shows at the beginning of this blog.
More on the Vernal
San Diego we’re in the aura of the Spring Equinox but in Perth, Australia, the
downunders are celebrating their autumnal Equinox.
is the first Equinox of the year.The
second equinox, the September Equinox, takes place on or around September 22
every year. It's the Southern Hemisphere's Spring Equinox and is called the
Autumnal (Fall Equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere.
are just bookmarks. In the Northern Hemisphere, astronomers and scientists use
the March Equinox as the start of spring, which ends on the June Solstice, when
astronomical summer begins. For meteorologists, on the other hand, spring in
the Northern Hemisphere begins three weeks before the March Equinox on March 1
and ends on May 31.
Equinox or a Soltice are only a moment in time. While cultures around the world
celebrate the whole day as the March Equinox, the equinox in reality occurs at
a specific moment in time. It is the exact moment the Sun crosses the celestial
equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s Equator – from south
to north. At this moment, the Earth's axis is neither tilted away from nor
towards the Sun.
hold your breath for the next Spring Equinox on March 21.Because as we learned today, dates and times
of the Equinox can vary.The last time
the Equinox occurred on March 21 was in 2007.The next time it will happen is in 2101!
to popular wisdom, the March Equinox can take place on March 19, 20 or 21. In
the 21st century, the March Equinox has only occurred twice on March 21 – 2003
and 2007. A March 19 equinox will be more frequent during the last decades of
Note: These dates
are based on the time of the equinox in UTC. Due to time zone differences,
locations ahead of UTC may celebrate the March Equinox a day later and
locations behind UTC may celebrate it a day earlier.Note: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is often
interchanged or confused with Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). But GMT is a
time zone and UTC is a time standard.
wisdom suggests that on the equinox everybody on Earth gets to experience a day
and night of equal lengths – 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night time.
In fact, the name equinox is derived from the Latin words aequus, meaning equal
and nox, meaning night. But not quite. In reality though, most places on Earth
get to see more daylight than night time on the equinoxes. This is because of
two reasons: how sunrise and sunset is defined and atmospheric refraction of
about that myth that the Spring Equinox is the only day you can balance an egg
on its end? The truth however is that there is nothing magical about the
equinox or the time it occurs – you can balance an egg perfectly on its end on all
days of the year. The real trick is to
balance a checkbook, but that’s a topic for another blog.