In the midst of this COVID-19 virus pandemic, the coming of spring may not be noticed as much as in previous years. In exactly 12 hours from the time this article posts it will be officially Spring via the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. It slips into place at 11:49 PM ET. The lateness of that shouldn’t stop you from feeling spring all day.
We just moved our clocks forward an hour, so does that mean the equinox really will occur at 9:49 or have they adjusted that? I’ll trust the astronomers have done their homework.
This year is the earliest that the vernal equinox has occurred in 124 years. On the Gregorian calendar, the Northward equinox can occur as early as 19 March or as late as 21 March at Greenwich. This year’s slightly earlier 19th is the first time since 1896 that we mark it today.
Why does the start of the seasons vary? A year is not an even number of days and so neither are the seasons. Plus the Earth’s elliptical orbit skews causing the planet’s axis to point in a different direction. Astronomers call that precession. And the pull of gravity from the other planets also affects the location of Earth in its orbit.
The vernal equinox is really just a moment, but spring will be 92.771 days.
Vernal translates to “new” or “fresh” and equinox is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night) because the period of time each day between sunrise and sunset has been growing slightly longer each day since the Winter Solstice in December.
The vernal equinox has been marked by cultures for centuries as the turning point when daylight begins to win out over darkness. It seems like a reason to celebrate in some way.
Though I don’t think the pandemic will “miraculously” go away because the weather will be warming, I do hope that we “flatten the curve” in April and see the virus turning – and not just in spring and summer but continuing into autumn and next winter.