But what actually happens during the Spring Equinox? Is the day just as long as night? Can the movement of the earth’s axis disrupt gravity enough to make eggs stand upright? Will we ever find out where in the world Carmen Sandiego is? She owes me $20! …What do you mean she’s a thief?!
If you Northern Hemispherees were paying close attention Sunday, March 20th at 7:21pm EST, you would have noticed…nothing. That’s right— nothing weird, crazy, or unbelievable happened in relation to the equinox. If you were able to stand any eggs upright, congratulation— you can do this on any day of the year!
“Equinox,” literally defined as “equal night,” is when the earth’s axis is neither tilted toward or away from the sun. However, contrary to the name, we don’t actually experience equal hours of day and night on this date. The only way we could experience exactly 12 hours of day and night on the equinox is if we had no atmosphere. But then we’d all be dead. Damn you, catch-22!
The atmosphere bends sunlight (known as atmospheric refraction) as the sun approaches the horizon, and gives the illusion that the sun has begun to rise a few minutes earlier than it really is. Although we see the light, the actual upper edge of the sun isn’t visible yet, which is what legitimately defines the term ‘sunrise.’
However, even though the “sunrise” hasn’t begun, we’re still getting daylight. And that means we’re getting more ‘day hours’ than night hours. Hence, no real “equinox.”
Actually, 12 equal hours of day and night is referred to as the equilux, and usually occurs the days before and after the equinox, depending on which hemisphere, latitude, and longitude you’re at (no dice for those living near the equator, unfortunately.)
Don’t be bummed, though. The equinoxes (equinoxi?) are still pretty special:
- They’re the only two times during the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west.
- They’re the only days of the year when a person standing on the Equator can see the sun passing directly overhead.
- The North Pole sees the sun skim the horizon, and begins its six months of uninterrupted daylight.
- The South Pole also sees the sun skim the horizon, but it signals the start of six months of darkness.
Wanna get to know your equinox better? Check out this site.
And Happy Seasonal Shift, everyone!