5 Things You Didn't Know About the Spring Equinox

Happy Spring Equinox!

High Park Cherry Blossoms in Toronto

Visiting the cherry blossoms in Toronto is something fun to do in the springtime. High Park has the largest collection of cherry trees and is the best place to view sakura blossoms.

If you can't make it there, check out their website: https://cherryblossomwatch.com/

Cherry Blossoms in High Park, TorontoBlossoms in Toronto and the CN Tower

Farewell, winter. Spring is on the horizon, at least for some of us. Above the equator, the arrival of the season is marked by the spring equinox, occurring in late March. It is also referred to as the vernal equinox, "vernal" signifying spring, this event holds significance.

During this pivotal moment, the sun aligns directly over the equator, a phenomenon occurring only twice annually: during the spring equinox and the autumnal equinox in September. Conversely, those residing in the Southern Hemisphere, below the equator, recognize the March equinox as the fall equinox or autumnal equinox.

In 2024, the spring equinox is slated for March 19th, at 11:06 P.M. EDT. To enhance your astronomical knowledge, here are five quick insights about this celestial event.

The Word "Equinox" Means "Equal Night"

Let's delve into the origins of words. Derived from Latin, "equinox" translates to "equal night." In this ancient language, "aequi" denotes "even" while "nox" signifies "night."

During an equinox, the lengths of daytime and nighttime are nearly equal, though not precisely so. This phenomenon is intricately tied to the movements of our planet. Earth's axis tilts at an angle of 23.5 degrees in relation to the plane of its orbit around the sun.

An equinox denotes the precise instance when the sun intersects an imaginary line in the sky. Envision a vast, unseen circle encircling the Earth directly above the equator. This imaginary boundary, known as the celestial equator, is traversed by the sun only twice yearly — during the spring and autumn equinoxes. Due to the angle of the sun, nearly every region of our planet experiences close to 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness, typically occurring on March 20th. (Strictly speaking, daytime lasts a few minutes longer than nighttime due to this solar inclination.)

Climate Scientists Recognize a Different "First Day of Spring"

Following tradition, the March Equinox is recognized as the inaugural day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere (and the onset of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere). However, were you aware of an alternative commencement date?

Astronomers delineate seasons according to Earth's orbit around the sun. In the astronomical calendar, both spring and autumn commence with an equinox, while summer and winter initiate with a solstice, marking the biannual occasions when one hemisphere experiences its shortest day of the year.

Hence, according to the astronomical calendar, spring in the Northern Hemisphere for 2023 extends from March 20 to the summer solstice on June 20. Nonetheless, climate scientists employ a distinct calendar known as the "meteorological calendar." Here, the year is partitioned into four seasons, each lasting three months, with spring commencing on March 1 and extending through April and May. Climate scientists anchor their calendar to temperature patterns rather than the sun's astronomical position, facilitating statistical calculations and trend forecasting through consistent month-lengths and fixed dates each year.

The Spring Equinox Marks the Persian New Year

"Wishing you a joyful Navroz!" The precise instance of the vernal equinox signifies the onset of the initial month in the Iranian solar calendar, also heralding the commencement of Nowruz, an extraordinary 13-day festivity often referred to as the Persian New Year. Celebrated by approximately 300 million individuals worldwide, predominantly in central and western Asia, Nowruz is prefaced by a flurry of household preparations. Following the conclusion of spring cleaning, families relish lavish feasts and may engage in egg painting, symbolizing fertility. On the Tuesday preceding the equinox, a customary ritual involves leaping over bonfires, symbolizing the rejuvenation accompanying the new year. Another tradition involves children banging on pots and seeking treats door-to-door. On the final day of the festivities, families typically venture out for a picnic, as remaining at home is considered unlucky.

 And Other Holidays Too, Like Easter

For centuries, adherents of Shintoism observed the solar event as an opportunity to pay homage to their ancestors. Subsequently, in the year 1948, the Japanese government transformed this custom into a secular, nationwide holiday officially recognized as Vernal Equinox Day, a tradition that persists to this day.

In most branches of Christianity, Easter is commemorated on the Sunday following the first full moon after March 21. What's noteworthy about this date? It signifies the ecclesiastical Spring Equinox. While astronomers acknowledge that a spring equinox may occur on March 19, 20, or 21, for the sake of simplicity, many religious leaders regard March 21 as the consistent date for the equinox. Consequently, Easter can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

Earth's Wobbling Will Affect Future Equinoxes

Similar to the motion of a spinning top, our planet undergoes a slight wobble on its axis. Presently, the axis is oriented toward the renowned "north star," Polaris. However, in approximately 12,000 years, it will veer away from Polaris, aligning itself with a different star: Vega. This cyclical process repeats every 26,000 years.

The gravitational forces exerted by the sun and moon primarily contribute to Earth's wobbling. As this wobble occurs, the sun's relationship with the zodiacal calendar undergoes alterations. During the vernal equinox, the sun traverses in front of the constellation Pisces, at least in the current era. Prior to 68 B.C.E., the sun's alignment was with Aries, another constellation, during the spring equinox. By 2567, the sun will align with the constellation Aquarius.

How Cool is this?

During the spring and fall equinoxes, the Mayan-constructed El Castillo pyramid exhibits a remarkable phenomenon. As the sun descends on these occasions, a serpent-like shadow seems to slither down one side of the structure. This optical illusion is created by the smaller triangular shadows cast by individual steps on the pyramid. While historians remain uncertain, this spectacle could possibly have been devised as an homage to the serpent deity Kukulcan.

via sciencehowstuffworks

Indulge in the cheeky charm of The Ridiculously Rude Plants Mug! 🤭 A definite unique gift. Let your green thumb giggle at the naughty names of knobweed, sausage tree, stiffcock, and more. Perfect for nature lovers with some sass or a mischievous streak! Happy Spring Equinox! 

The Ridiculously Rude Plants Mug





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