WHAT IS THE AUTUMNAL EQUINOX?
Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor. –Irish proverb
The autumnal equinox—also called the September or fall equinox—is the astronomical start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere.
Why is it called an equinox?
The word comes from the Latin aequus, meaning “equal” and nox, meaning “night.”
During the equinox, the Sun crosses what we call the “celestial equator.” Imagine a line that marks the equator on Earth extending up into the sky above the equator from north to south. Earth’s two hemispheres receive the Sun’s rays about equally. The Sun is overhead at noon as seen from the equator, so at this point, the amount of nighttime and daytime (sunlight) are roughly equal to each other.
Technically speaking, the equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. This will happen at 9:54 pm Eastern time on Saturday.
After the autumnal equinox, the nights will get longer and the days shorter until the December solstice near Christmas.
NATURE’S SIGNS OF FALL
What are you signs of fall? In many regions of North America, the landscape silently explodes with vibrant colors of red, yellow, and orange. The leaves begin to drop off the trees, providing endless hours of jumping into leaf piles for kids and raking them back up for parents!
Trees snapping and cracking in the autumn indicate dry weather.
Fall also brings some wonderful holidays including Halloween and Thanksgiving which carry us through the season until temperatures begin to drop, nights begin to get longer, and all the woodland critters start storing up for the long haul of winter.
And then don’t forget about the end of Daylight Saving Time when you “fall” back, setting your clocks back one hour and regaining an hour of sleep.
Plants and trees are slowing down, as sunlight decreases. In the garden, asters and chrysantemums bloom beautifully as orange pumpkins and corn mazes abound.
Football season is warming up and so is sweater weather.
Also notice the arc of the sun across the sky each day as it starts shifting south. Birds and butterflies migrate along with the path of our Sun!
Of course, you can you can easily notice the later dawns and earlier sunsets.
Here’s everything you need to know about the fall equinox
1. This year, 2018, the autumnal equinox arrives precisely at 9:54 p.m. EDT on Saturday, September 22 . Unlike an event such as New Year’s midnight that follows the clock around the time zones, equinoxes happen at the same moment everywhere.
2. There are two equinoxes annually, vernal and autumnal, marking the beginning of spring and fall. They are opposite for the northern and southern hemispheres – so for those of you in the south, happy spring!
3. “Equinox” comes from the Latin words “equi” meaning “equal” and “nox” meaning “night.” This implies that there will be equal amounts of daylight and darkness, however such is not exactly the case.
4. For the astrology-minded, the morning of the autumnal equinox is when the sun enters Virgo. According to astrologists, this is a good time for organization and practicality.
5. This year on the equinox, as happens every year, the sun will rise precisely due East and will set precisely due West. Everywhere on Earth, except at the North and South Poles, there is a due east and due west point on the horizon; by observing the sun as it travels along this path on September 22, no matter where you are, you can see where that point it for your location. Pick a landmark, make a mental note, and enjoy the knowledge that while so much in this world is in flux, the sun is constant and will return to its perfect East and West on the days of equinox.