(CNN) — Twice a year, the sun doesn’t play favorites. Everyone on Earth is in the same situation — a lot of light and darkness.
Your location in the world will also determine whether you mark the day this year on Friday, September 22, or Friday, September 23. People in America celebrate it on Friday; The main differences in timing are that people in Africa, Europe and Asia mark it on their Fridays.
People closest to the equator have 12-hour days and 12-hour nights year-round, so they don’t see anything. But those hardy near the poles, in places like Alaska and the northern parts of Canada and Scandinavia, go through wild swings in the day/night ratio every year. They have long, dark winters, followed by summers where the night doesn’t come.
But during the equinoxes, everything from pole to pole enjoys a 12-hour separation of day and night. Well, there’s just one twist — it’s not quite as “similar” as you might think.
There is a good (SCIENCE!) explanation for why you don’t get it right 12 hours of daylight on the equinox. More below.
But first, here are the answers to your burning equinox questions:
Where does the word ‘equinox’ come from?
When is the fall equinox?
The sunset is seen in the west on Randolph Street in Chicago a few days before the fall equinox in 2019.
Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Getty Images
For people in places like Toronto and Washington, DC, that’s 9:03 pm. It arrives at 8:03 pm in Mexico City and Chicago. Out West in San Diego and Vancouver, that means until 6:03 p.m.
But go somewhere else on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and time will change for you on Friday. For residents of Madrid, Berlin and Cairo, it will arrive at 3:03 am Friday. Heading east, Dubai marks the exact event at 5:03 am
Is the autumn equinox the first day of fall?
Yes. Fall officially begins at the autumnal equinox.
Allison Chinchar, CNN meteorologist, explains the differences:
“Astronomical autumn is the period from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice. Those days can change by a day or two every year,” he said.
“Meteorological fall is different … because the days do not change and are based on climatological seasons rather than the angle of the Earth in relation to the sun. These seasons may be people are very aware of it,” said Chinchar.
Fall leaves can come early in high-altitude areas like Kenosha Pass, Colorado. This photo was taken on September 19, 2016, at night with a long exposure, illuminated by the moon and traffic lights.
RJ Sangosti/Denver Post/Getty Images
Meteorological seasons are defined as follows: March 1 to May 31 is spring; Summer is June 1 to August 31; Fall is September 1 to November 30; and December 1st to February 28th is winter.
“It’s been a tough few days,” Chinchar said. “For example, December 10, most people think of as winter, but if you’re using the astronomical calendar, it looks like autumn because it’s just before the winter solstice. “
He said, “meteorologists and climatologists prefer to use the ‘meteorological calendar’ because not only do the dates change – making it easier to remember – but because the line falls with the people think of traditional seasons.”
Why does the equinox fall in the first place?
The coming sun is testing the fog near the town of Glastonbury in southwest England during the autumn equinox 2021.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
The Earth revolves around an imaginary line that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole. It’s called the axis, and this rotation is what gives us day and night.
The results are at the end of June and the end of December. These are the solstices, and they have the greatest difference between day and night, especially near the poles. (This is why it stays light for a long time each day in the summer in places like Scandinavia and Alaska.)
But since the summer solstice three months ago in June, you’ve noticed that in the Northern Hemisphere our days are shorter and our nights are longer. And here we are at the fall equinox!
What did our ancestors know about these things?
Here are some points about the equinox and the annual passage of the sun:
Mexico’s Chichen Itza is a sacred site during the spring and fall equinoxes.
What are some festivals, stories, and traditions that are still with us?
Around the world, the autumn equinox is woven into our culture and traditions.
Great Britain’s beloved harvest festivals have their roots in the autumn equinox from pagan times.
Tokyo’s Rikugien Gardens are ablaze with fall color. Fall equinox is a public holiday in Japan.
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Are the northern lights stronger at the equinoxes?
Yes — they usually put on a show this time of year.
The fall and spring equinox (or vernal equinox) are known to coincide with peak activity with the aurora borealis.
So why is the equinox not the same?
It appears that there will be less daylight than darkness at the equinox, depending on where you are on Earth. How about that? The answer is difficult but interesting.
The evening sun shines on the red leaves of the chestnut trees on the banks of the Landwehrkanal in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.
This bending of light rays causes the sun to appear above the sky when the sun’s natural position is below the sky. Daylight is longer at higher latitudes than at the equator because it takes longer for the sun to rise and set closer to the poles.
So at the fall equinox, the length of the day will vary slightly depending on where you are. Here are some breakdowns to give you a rough idea:
• At or near the equator: About 12 hours and 6 minutes (Quito, Ecuador; Nairobi, Kenya, and Singapore)
• At or near 30 degrees north latitude: About 12 hours and 8 minutes (New Orleans, Louisiana; Cairo, Egypt; and Shanghai, China)
• At or near 60 degrees north latitude: About 12 hours and 16 minutes (Helsinki, Finland, and Anchorage, Alaska)