What you need to know about March Equinox

So, what is the autumn equinox, what does it mean and when is it in 2021 in the Southern Hemisphere?

By Lusanda Tamesi

Equinox/ Equinoctial point simply means “equal night”, since the length of day & night is nearly equal in all parts of the world during equinoxes. The word equinox comes from the Latin word aequus for “equal” and nox for “night”. The March equinox marks the time when the Northern Hemisphere starts to tilt towards the sun, meaning longer, sunnier days. When the Northern Hemisphere starts to tilt towards the sun in spring, the Southern Hemisphere starts to tilt away from the sun, signaling the start of autumn. Thus, in the Southern Hemisphere, the March equinox is called the autumnal equinox, and the September equinox is called the vernal equinox. The autumn equinox, which falls on the 20 March yearly, in the Southern Hemisphere, officially marks the end of warm days and the beginning of cold days as winter draws near. Technically our planet will experience close to 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

Let’s be honest the recent mornings are starting to feel like a drag, although some may not feel it immediately, I’m no meteorologist but the promise of winter is in the chilly mornings and evenings. As Game-of-Thrones say “winter is coming”.

How many equinoxes do we experience?

 There are two Equinoxes in a year in March and in September

Why don’t equinoxes have equal day and night?

In reality, though, most places on Earth get to see more daylight than nighttime on the equinoxes. Most locations of Earth, except those on the Equator, do have almost equal day and night twice a year. This is because of two reasons: how sunrise and sunset are defined and atmospheric refraction of sunlight. 

What happens on Equinox?

The Earth’s axis is tilted at an angle of about 23.4° to the ecliptic plane, the imaginary plane created by the Earth’s path around the Sun. This simply means the sun crosses the celestial equator, the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator, from south to north.

When will South Africa experience equinox?

Saturday, 20 March, 11:37

What do astronomers use March equinox for?

The March equinox is often used by astronomers to measure a tropical year, the time for the Earth to complete a single orbit around the Sun. Also known as a solar year, a tropical year is approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds long.

Equinox celebrations

Many cultures around the world hold feasts and celebrate festivals and holidays to mark the March equinox. People have celebrated the vernal equinox for centuries. For ancient cultures, the vernal equinox marked the return of their food supply. Early Egyptians even built the Great Sphinx pointing directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the vernal equinox. In Christianity, the vernal equinox is significant, because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It’s egg hunt time!

In many Christian cultures, Easter eggs are synonymous with Easter. Also known as Paschal eggs, these are usually decorated chicken eggs or the modern Easter bunny chocolate eggs that symbolize fertility and rebirth. Many Easter-related events feature the Easter egg as the central theme. Traditional games like egg hunts, where children search for colourful Easter eggs; egg rolling, and egg dancing, where eggs are laid on the floor, and people dance while trying not to damage them, are held all around the world.

Many cultures around the world celebrate the whole day as the March equinox. However, in reality, the equinox occurs at a specific moment in time when the Sun crosses the celestial equator, the imaginary line in the sky above Earth’s Equator, from south to north.

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