It’s gotten to the point in the year when winter seems endless. But fear not, there is light at the end of this icy tunnel. The spring equinox will happen on Tuesday, March 20th, and that means warm weather is on the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere. But you might be wondering, what is the spring equinox? Let us be your astronomical guide.
The spring equinox, also called the vernal equinox, is the official start of spring and usually occurs around March 19th, 20th, or 21st. The term “equinox” comes from the Latin words aequus, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night. We experience two equinoxes each year — the vernal in March and autumnal in September.
During these two equinoxes, the sun is directly above the equator. Earth’s axis becomes aligned with the center of the sun during an equinox. This causes each hemisphere to experience about the same, equal amount of daylight and darkness.
In actuality, science has revealed that this equal amount of day and night isn’t so equal after all. There’s actually a few minutes more daylight than nighttime on the equinox because of a phenomenon called atmospheric refraction, as WashtingtonPost.com explains. The way we define sunset and sunrise also skews the equality of the equinox.
The “equilux,” which is when sunrise and sunset are exactly 12 hours apart, actually happens around March 16th or 17th. Yeah, science is confusing sometimes.
After the vernal equinox occurs, days in the Northern Hemisphere grow longer and nights grow shorter until the summer solstice in late June, which reminds us — equinoxes are not to be confused with solstices! The summer and winter solstices are the longest and shortest days of the year. Completely different than equinoxes, space cadets.
The longer amounts of daylight (12+ hours of sunlight) is what beckons the birds back, makes them sing, and causes flowers to bloom, according to Almanac.com.
It’s important to remain patient come March 20th. The Earth won’t warm up over night, so give her some time. Soon enough, you’ll be eating dinner while the sun’s out and wearing your favorite pair of shorts again.