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What Exactly Is the Spring Equinox?

solstice, baobab, sunset

The equinox occurs twice a year. The vernal equinox happens around March 21, when the sun moves north across the celestial equator. The autumnal equinox occurs around September 22nd or 23rd, when the sun crosses the celestial equator going south.

The word equinox comes from Latin and means “equality of night and day.” Contrary to popular belief, the equinox does not last for 24 hours. It occurs at two specific moments in time when the sun is exactly above the equator.  If you want to be truly egalitarian, opt for saying March equinox and September equinox. These terms avoid the Northern Hemisphere bias that March is in the spring and September is in the autumn.

The equinox is often confused with the solstice, which is either of the two times a year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator. The solstice occurs around June 21 and December 22. Solstice derives from the Latin solstitium, which literally means “the standing still of the sun.”

The equinox has inspired a number of false beliefs, including that the event causes a massive disruption of communication satellites. Another myth claims that on the equinox an egg can effortlessly be balanced on its end. (English almost used a different word instead of “egg” to mean the things chickens lay.) One of our favorite myths is the email hoax that, for a brief time, Mars will look as big as the moon. Read about that here.

Are there natural phenomena you would like us to examine? Events, physical occurrences, holidays you would like us to deeply define and unwind? Let us know, right below.

22 Comments

  1. M.M.Singh -  July 8, 2016 - 10:42 pm

    It is very cute to mind”Contrary to popular belief,the equinox doesnot last for 24 hours.It occurs at two specific moments in time when the sun is exactly over the equator.”

    Reply
  2. Anita jigjinni -  July 3, 2016 - 11:15 pm

    The dates, which many times I got confused, which the article makes it very clear. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Suleiman Adeyemi -  June 24, 2016 - 2:13 pm

    Very good in learning!

    Reply
  4. Suleiman Adeyemi -  June 24, 2016 - 2:02 pm

    V

    Reply
  5. Kate -  June 23, 2016 - 8:25 pm

    Interesting info. – I’m glad to have the dates of equinoxes & solstices as well. I’m curious about Samhane (sp?), Beltane and other pre-Christian celebrations and how (if) they have been incorporated into modern holidays. The two I mentioned pop up again and again in classic as well as contemporary literature and I always swear I’m going to look them up. I don’t.

    Reply
  6. Carole Vaporean -  June 20, 2016 - 2:58 pm

    Actually, standing an egg on its end on the equinox is NOT a myth. I have done it many times and even taken photos of it. Try it on any other day and you’ll be trying for a very long time. I’ve done that too.

    Reply
    • Fabian Paul -  July 9, 2016 - 3:33 am

      Please submit photos

      Reply
  7. Helen Zudrell -  September 20, 2015 - 5:00 pm

    Thank you;Interesting.

    Reply
  8. Helen Zudrell -  September 20, 2015 - 4:59 pm

    Very interesting reading;A friend asked me “Is there a difference in “fall” & “autumn” ? I love these answers.Thank you! Helen

    Reply
  9. Ed-die Crenshaw -  January 4, 2015 - 3:41 am

    Well I live in North Pole, Alaska the winter solstice means no more losing daylight. For example on December 2014 there was 4 hours 8 minutes of daylight. After that we slowly start to gain daylight. So the wadi see it and what it means is winter’s half way over.

    Reply
  10. Philip Dawson -  June 22, 2014 - 8:28 am

    Good Summer Solstice article excepting a seriously misleading statement that “Days continue to lengthen from the Autumn equinox to the Summer Solstice.” No they don’t – this should surely be from the Winter Solstice or at the very least, from the Spring Equinox. Please correct!

    Reply
    • MikeH -  February 10, 2015 - 10:24 am

      This all happens due to our earths axis is tipped in relation to the normal of the sun as the earth travels around the sun for 1 year. Our tipped axis is also in relation to the moon, that when the northern hemisphere is tipped closes to the moon is when you have your highest tides, because the moon pulls the water towards is with it’s gravitational attraction.

      Reply
  11. Kathy Crawford -  June 21, 2014 - 1:43 pm

    What makes the harvest moon look the way it does?

    Reply
    • Elaina Preston -  June 20, 2016 - 10:44 am

      I am interested inthe equinox(not sure how its spelledd)
      I want the history behind why ppl thought in those times bad things wkould happen,an especially interesed in the witches .
      Thank you
      ~Elaina~

      Reply
      • Marguerite -  June 25, 2016 - 6:10 am

        I too am curious to know about witches, and also the tides.

        Reply
  12. Rafiq Munir -  March 24, 2014 - 9:51 am

    As demonstrated by a co-worker several years ago, I stood a raw egg on its end during the “March equinox” contrary to your statement above. I can forward a photo (not photo-shopped or otherwise manipulated) if you would like the evidence. [Admittedly, it took a little effort and patience so you could technically discount my rebuttal with our "effortlesly" descriptor.]

    Reply
  13. Kieran -  March 23, 2014 - 7:08 am

    A friend and I were wondering if the spring equinox has any correlation or effects on tides at all.

    Reply
    • A. S. Musni -  July 2, 2016 - 10:26 pm

      No. Please read the statement of Mr. Michael H., dated Feb 10, 2015. It is true that tides are caused by the moon’s gravitational force. If it’s high tide in the northern hemisphere, it is low tide in the southern hemisphere or vice versa. Wherever you are at when you observed hightide, you’d see the presence of the moon either day or night. When you don’t see the moon, you’d observe that it’s low tide. Therefore, neither equinoxes or solstice has any relation to tides.

      Reply
      • MaeMae -  July 7, 2016 - 12:53 am

        I live on an island, but I don’t spend much time near the ocean. I always knew that high tide comes morning and evening, and that the moons gravitational pull is what causes waves and high/low tides. I’ve also always been able to see the moon in the afternoons, but hours before sunset. I always thought it’s just some weird phenomenon (to laypeople like me) of astrophysics, and never gave it any thought when I marvel at it. Now when I notice the moon during the day I’m going to enlighten them that it’s a sign of the rising tide.
        This may sound like a very stupid question, but: Do landlocked places see the moon during daytime? Tide levels don’t matter for areas nowhere near large bodies of water, do they? Or does the moon during the day indicate various natural occurrences depending on locations?

        Reply
  14. Jonnee Western -  March 20, 2014 - 4:59 pm

    Spring is the time when Ceres has finally rescued her daughter, Persephone, from the clutches of Pluto, god of the underworld . The signs of Persephone’s return from the underworld are green grass more sunlight, birds singing, rabbits begin to proliferate, birds lay eggs, lots of stuff seems to be coming into their most beautiful display.

    Reply
    • I am confused . You said June 21st is the starting of Summer and then why you wished a very happy Autumn which is 3 months far off -  June 23, 2014 - 4:16 am

      It is Summer Solstice on June 21st , the beginning of Summer . Why then the reader is wished “a happy Autumn”

      Reply
    • Marguerite -  June 25, 2016 - 6:11 am

      That’s interesting. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

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