The first day of fall: Why the equinox isn’t what you think

(CNN) — Twice a year, the sun doesn’t play favorites. Everyone on Earth is in the same situation — a lot of light and darkness.

We have entered our second and final equinox of 2022. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you know it’s the autumnal equinox (or autumnal equinox). For those south of the equator, this equinox actually marks the arrival of spring.

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?

From our CNN Fast Facts file: The word equinox comes from the Latin word equinoxium, which means “the balance between day and night.”

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.

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

For Bangkok residents, it’s 8:03 am and Tokyo 10:03 am You can click here to see more cities (rounded to the minute and adjusted for day care time).

Is the autumn equinox the first day of fall?

Yes. Fall officially begins at the autumnal equinox.

But there are two measurements of the seasons: “stellar seasons” (based on the arrival of the equinoxes and solstices) and what are called “mirror seasons.”

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.

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.

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.

However, the axis is tilted at 23.5 degrees, according to NASA’s definition. It positions one hemisphere of the earth to receive more sunlight than the other for half the cycle of the year around the sun. This difference in the sun causes the seasons.

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?

Before the age of clocks, satellites and modern technology, our ancient ancestors knew the sun’s movement across the sky — enough to build great monuments and temples. which became giant calendars to mark the seasons. .

Here are some points about the equinox and the annual passage of the sun:

• Megalithic Temples of Malta: These seven temples on the Mediterranean island are some of the earliest freestanding stone structures in the world, dating back 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. In the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples, semicircular chambers were shaped to hold the eastern sun at an equinox between the stones.
Chichen Itza

Mexico’s Chichen Itza is a sacred site during the spring and fall equinoxes.

Photographic images/zxvisua

• Chichén Itzá (Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico): El Castillo, the famous pyramid at Chichén Itzá, puts on a show at the equinoxes. Built by the Toltec-Maya people between 1050 and 1300, the pyramid was built to cast a shadow during the equinoxes on the northern balustrade of El Castillo. It resembles a serpent slithering down a staircase, and the ancient special effect is heightened by the animal heads carved at the base.
• Jantar Mantar (New Delhi, India): Mostly reborn (1724 and 1730), these buildings from the late Mughal era were astronomical observatories.

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.

In Greek mythology, the autumn equinox marks the return of the goddess Persephone to the underworld for three months, where she is reunited with her husband Hades.
The Chinese and Vietnamese celebrate the Harvest Moon (also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival). Street lights line the streets as people give thanks, look at the moon and eat. Round cakes called mooncakes are a favorite of the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is recorded on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. In 2022, it falls on September 10.

Great Britain’s beloved harvest festivals have their roots in the autumn equinox from pagan times.

Rikugien, Tokyo fall leaves

Tokyo’s Rikugien Gardens are ablaze with fall color. Fall equinox is a public holiday in Japan.

love Kimon Berlin

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.

As defined by the US National Weather Service, the “nearly” equal hours of day and night are due to the difficulty of measuring sunrise and the refraction of the sun. sun in our sky.
The evening sun shines on the red leaves of the chestnut trees on the banks of the Landwehrkanal in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

The evening sun shines on the red leaves of the chestnut trees on the banks of the Landwehrkanal in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

Stefan Jaitner/dpa/picture-alliance/AP

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)

To separate day and night, you have to wait until days or weeks after the official equinox. That day is called the equilux, and when it happens depends on your latitude.

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