You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

With equinox’s arrival Monday, spring is here — by every measure


Highlights

At 5:38 a.m. Monday, the sun will be directly over the equator, marking the start of “astronomical spring.”

“Meteorological spring” started March 1 for meteorologists who prefer to have fixed beginnings to seasons.

Spring is finally here — by every way of measuring its arrival.

Monday is the vernal equinox, the starting point of spring, as determined by people who base their seasons on the Earth’s position relative to the sun and stars. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about this rite of spring:

What is the vernal equinox?

At 5:28 a.m. in the Central time zone, the sun is positioned so that it shines directly on the equator, and the northern and southern hemispheres receive exactly the same amount of the sun’s rays. Night and day will be almost equal length. This is an important milestone if you’re into traditional calendars or pagan rituals.

Why is it important?

In many parts of the ancient world, four important dates delineated the seasons: the summer solstice (when spring gives way to summer), the autumnal equinox (when summer gives way to fall), the winter solstice (fall turns to winter) and the vernal equinox (winter to spring).

For two days a year — the equinoxes — the sun is exactly above the equator. And twice a year — the solstices — the sun hits a maximum high or minimum low point in the sky at noon.

These have been important markers on humanity’s journey through time by helping people know such things as when to plant crops or bust out the short pantaloons.

Why only two days when the sun is directly above the equator?

The Earth’s equator is on an axis tilted about 23.5 degrees relative to the sun. That means that, as the Earth rotates around the sun, its northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving more light from the sun. At the equinoxes, the axis is neither inclined toward nor away from the sun.

“Equinox” has something to do with Latin, right?

Equinox is derived from the Latin term aequinoctium, which combines equal (aequus) and night (nox).

But day and night won’t be exactly the same length today, will they?

Day and night won’t be exactly the same length. Another designation, equilux, is sometimes used to refer to a day when the amount of light and dark are equal.

So spring starts today? But didn’t spring start awhile back?

Yes, kind of. We’ve had spring-like weather for much of the last few months, with this winter being the warmest on record in Central Texas. So it’s felt like spring almost all winter long. We also had wildflowers blooming — a harbinger of spring — back in February.

But didn’t spring arrive March 1?

That also happened. March 1 was the start of “meteorological spring.” Meteorologists prefer a calendar in which the seasons start on the same days every year. It helps with record keeping, among other reasons. But the Earth, sun and stars don’t quite conform to the Gregorian calendar — thus the vernal equinox doesn’t fall on the same day every year. The vernal equinox follows celestial trends, at the expense of syncing precisely with the western calendar. That’s why the vernal equinox is often said to usher in “astronomical spring.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated from an earlier version that gave the incorrect time for the equinox. It was at 5:28 a.m. Monday



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

UPDATE: SWAT response in Northwest Austin ends, man hospitalized with self-inflicted gunshot wound

A SWAT response in Northwest Austin has ended, and a man has been hospitalized with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police first responded to the 4300 block of Canyonside Trail at about 9:17 a.m. after reports that shots were fired. After police arrived, a woman emerged from the house. Officials said a man in his 60s refused calls to come out, and...
FORECAST: A beautiful Sunday, but hotter weather is on the way.

Good morning, Austin! If you were among the thousands who took part in the Statesman Cap 10K today, you already know what a gorgeous day it is. If you are still inside, today’s weather report might motivate you to head out and enjoy what’s ahead. Forecasters are calling for sunny day in Austin on Sunday, with afternoon highs near 74 degrees...
Police investigate shots fired in Lake Pflugerville area; one taken to hospital

One person was taken to the hospital after shots were fired in the Lake Pflugerville area on Saturday night, the Pflugerville Police Department said. Police said they responded to a call of shots being fired at about 9 p.m. in the 18000 block of Weiss Lane, which runs along the lake. One person was found injured, and the Austin-Travis County EMS took...
Austin expands remote council comment program
Austin expands remote council comment program

Open hailing frequencies to City Hall! Beginning in May, even more Austinites will be able to give the City Council a piece of their mind without having to make the trek down downtown — all thanks to expansion of the remote public comment program. “Remote citizen communication makes government more accessible to Austinites,” Mayor...
Transgender bathrooms overshadow Dripping Springs school board race
Transgender bathrooms overshadow Dripping Springs school board race

Three candidates, including two incumbents, are vying for two school board seats in Dripping Springs, where a battle over which bathroom a transgender student should use has overshadowed a typically low-key race. The trio — incumbent Ron Jones, a consultant; incumbent Barbara Stroud, a family law attorney; Trey Powers, a senior mortgage loan...
More Stories