Rite of Spring

The Great Sphinx faces the rising Vernal Equinox sun

We welcome the first day of spring! And it's called the Vernal Equinox.

Do you know what Happens at the Equinox?
The Sun will cross directly over the Earth's equator. This moment is known as the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. For the Southern Hemisphere, this is the moment of the Autumnal Equinox. Translated literally, Equinox means "equal night." Because the sun is positioned above the equator, day and night are about equal in length all over the world during the Equinoxes.

Reasons for the Seasons
These brief but monumental moments owe their significance to the 23.4 degree tilt of the Earth's axis. Because of the tilt, we receive the Sun's rays most directly in the summer. In the winter, when we are tilted away from the Sun, the rays pass through the atmosphere at a greater slant, bringing lower temperatures. If the Earth rotated on an axis perpendicular to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, there would be no variation in day lengths or temperatures throughout the year, and we would not have seasons.

Rituals and Traditions
Modern astronomy aside, people have recognized the Vernal Equinox for thousands of years. There is no shortage of rituals and traditions surrounding the coming of spring. Many early peoples celebrated simply to have their food supplies restored. The date is significant in Christianity because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It is also probably no coincidence that early Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the Vernal Equinox.

So go celebrate your own Rite of Spring!


Becca said...

This is interesting to know. I never really thought much about the equinox.

Dianne said...

Yea!It's time to celebrate spring. It's still too cold here, though.

Johnny said...

Hi, just checking in. Nice article. Have you ever thought about a sci-fi slant dealing with a non-tilted planet? Some interesting ideas come to mind...

Cate said...

That's a good idea Johnny. I can come up with a few plots in that direction too.

Christina Phillips said...

Even after nine years in Oz, it just feels so wrong to be entering into autumn at this time of year!