What Is the Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox?
The spring equinox, also called the vernal equinox, marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It occurs when the sun crosses the equator and is directly overhead, resulting in equal amounts of daylight and darkness. The vernal equinox has been celebrated for thousands of years in various cultures and traditions, symbolizing renewal, rebirth and new beginnings.
The following oneHOWTO article explains in more detail what the vernal equinox is and when it occurs, as well as other interesting facts about this celestial event.
What is the spring equinox?
The spring equinox, also known as the vernal equinox, is an astronomical event that occurs twice a year, around March 20th or 21st in the Northern Hemisphere and September 22nd or 23rd in the Southern Hemisphere.
During the spring equinox, the sun is directly above the equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal. This happens because the Earth's axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the sun at this time, resulting in equal amounts of daylight and darkness for all parts of the world.
The spring equinox marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.
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How and where is the spring equinox celebrated?
The spring equinox is celebrated in many cultures around the world as a time of renewal, fertility, and new beginnings. Here are some examples of how and where the spring equinox is celebrated:
- Persians celebrate Nowruz, which marks the first day of spring and the Persian new year. It's a time for cleaning, feasting, and visiting family and friends.
- In Mexico, the spring equinox is celebrated at the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza, where the sun's rays create a serpent-like shadow on the steps of the temple of Kukulkan.
- In Japan, the spring equinox is a time for visiting graves and offering prayers to ancestors.
- In Egypt, the spring equinox is marked by the feast of Sham El-Nessim, which celebrates the arrival of spring and the blooming of flowers.
- In Europe, the spring equinox is often celebrated as a pagan holiday known as Ostara, which is associated with the goddess of fertility and new life.
In many parts of the world, people celebrate the spring equinox by planting seeds or engaging in other activities that symbolize renewal and growth.
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What is the difference between equinox and solstice?
Both equinox and solstice are related to the position of the Earth in its orbit around the Sun, but they refer to different phenomena.
An equinox occurs twice a year, around March 20th or 21st and September 22nd or 23rd, when the length of day and night is approximately equal all over the world. This occurs because at the equinox, the Earth's axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the Sun, and the Sun is directly overhead at the equator.
On the other hand, a solstice occurs twice a year, around June 21st or 22nd and December 21st or 22nd, when the Sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky, relative to the Earth's equator.
In summary, the equinoxes mark the two times a year when day and night are roughly equal, while the solstices mark the two times when the Sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky. Below, we talk a little more about the other equinox and the two solstices, so you can better distinguish between them:
There are those who confuse the term and speak of the summer equinox, but correct is the summer solstice. This date is characterized by being the day of the year with the shortest night, and it occurs on June 20 or 21, as we have already seen.
The autumn equinox, which occurs on September 22 or 23, marks the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. When this phenomenon occurs, the nights become longer and the days shorter. To simplify the explanation, let us say that summer ends throughout the north.
Many people talk about the winter equinox, but it does not actually exist, because the correct term is winter solstice. It marks the end of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. With the appearance of this phenomenon, the hours of sunlight begin to decrease. This solstice encompasses the moment when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator on December 21. In this other article, you will learn more about what the winter solstice is and when it occurs.
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