March equinox has a great significance here at 64 degrees of latitude where our winter days can be just under 4 hours and colder than minus 40 degrees. Winter’s cold grip has loosened over the previous weeks with lengthening day, the return to Alaska Standard Time, and more comfortable temperatures; the equinox is the gateway to the midnight sun. Though we welcome this milestone, it does not provoke people to build huge bonfires and do pagan dances like at winter solstice, rather, it’s a quiet rebirth. It is also an incredible time of year for northern lights watching (photos)!
The Vernal Equinox is the first day spring. The term equinox gets it’s meaning from the Latin and means equal night. The idea of even day and night length was derived closer to the equator but those of us that live further north or south of the equator know full well that length of day on equinoxes is not quite even.
But why is the day length not uniform worldwide on equinox?
Equinox occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator. If you look at the illustration above, you can see that it is not actually the same as the ecliptic equator.
The actual day length in Fairbanks, Alaska on vernal equinox is:
Duration = 12 Hours 18 Mins 36 Secs
Sunrise = 07:49:49Day
Sunset = 20:08:25
Today’s equinox occurs at 11:02 UT (3:02 AM AKST/ 7AM EST ). Using this map below it’s easy to determine when equinox happens in your land.
Finally, I don’t want to leave out our friends in the southern hemisphere. Today is the autumnal or fall equinox in the southern hemisphere. While we celebrate rebirth in the northern hemisphere our friends in the southern hemisphere watch the leaves fall from the trees and prepare for winter. In my search for images to illustrate this post I learned that the sciencey people who are in with the astronomy crowd refer to today’s equinox as “March Equinox” rather than “vernal” or “autumnal” as to keep the terminology universal.
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