Happy first day of spring 2017! Also known as the spring equinox or vernal equinox, today the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly the same. For 2017, the spring equinox occurs at 6:29 a.m. EDT in the northern hemisphere. At this time, the sun will cross directly over the earth’s equator.
However, today is only the first day of the astronomical spring. The meteorological spring started on March 1. According to the Metro, “Meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle. As the meteorological calendar is split into four seasons of roughly the same length, it’s widely accepted that March 1 is the first day of spring.”
Learn more about history and origins of the spring equinox below.
1. It Is 1 of 4 Seasonal Astronomical Events
The spring equinox lands on either March 20 or 21 every year in the northern hemisphere. It is one of the four seasonal astronomical events that impacts earth. The other three are the summer solstice, the autumnal equinox, and the winter solstice.
The spring equinox is also known as the vernal equinox. “Vernal” means “of relating to spring” in Latin. “Equinox” means “equal night” in Latin. The spring equinox is one of the two annual equinoxes where the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly the same.
There’s also something called an “equilux,” which means “equal light” in Latin. The spring equilux occurs about four days before the spring equinox, which means it occurred on March 17. According to the Pine River Observatory, an equilux is “the day that has equal hours and minutes of sun above and below the horizon.”
In the fall, the autumnal equinox falls about four days after the autumnal equinox.
2. Equinoxes Aren’t Solstices
Equinoxes are different than solstices. Solstices occur in the summer and winter. When the earth rotates on its axis, it reaches the point of maximum tilt, either when the northern hemisphere is the most tilted away from the sun, winter, or when it is tilted toward the sun, summer.
For inhabitants of the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice process becomes most noticeable around December 1 when the sun appears to “move” south and get smaller. By the day of the actual winter solstice, the sun has reached its lowest point in the sky at -25.5°. Once it has reached this lowest point, an interesting thing happens: the sun appears to stop moving south for three days. After this, the sun moves 1° north, announcing the coming of spring. It will continue to move northward until the summer solstice, when it reaches its highest point.
2. It Is a Holiday Celebrated by Pagans
There was a lot of religious mysticism involved with spring equinox in the ancient world that has entered into the modern world with holidays all sharing similar themes. The most common theme associated with the spring equinox is rebirth and renewal.
The death and resurrection of a god is a common motif, first celebrated by pagans. However, ancient people didn’t practice “paganism”; the term was coined in the 19th century as a catchall for non-Christian, early European religions, according to Dictionary.com.
Ancient gods and goddesses that die and resurrect in the spring season include Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Tammuz, Dionysus, Ishtar, Persephone, and Bari.
A modern god that is celebrated for death and resurrection during this time is Jesus Christ.
Nowadays, Christians celebrate Easter, Hindus celebrate Holi, and Persians celebrate Nowruz in the spring. All of these celebrations are viewed as a time of transition and new beginnings.
4. It’s the Autumnal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere
While the northern hemisphere prepares for spring, the southern hemisphere prepares for fall.
This means that as the northern hemisphere progresses into summer, continents like Australia and South America will begin to transition into winter.
Because of this, the vernal equinox is sometimes referred to the as the “March equinox” when speaking globally.
5. Spring Doesn’t Mean Warm Weather
While the official first day of spring is related to when the equinox occurs, it might not feel like spring right away—especially for northern latitude countries like the U.S.A. and Canada. That’s because spring weather varies with climate and how far you are away from the equator.
But rest assured, warmer weather will come!
Read more about the first day of Spring in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com: