As the Sun Crosses the Equator

The heavenly bodies do their seasonal dance and shift their steps tomorrow. We call it it the start of autumn, though is another hemisphere they will be entering spring.

The Autumnal Equinox 2010 will occur September 22 at 11:09 PM EDT.

Some science teacher probably tried to get you to understand that an equinox is either of two points on the celestial sphere where the ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect. Eventually, you could grasp that it was one of two times each year when the Sun crosses the equator, and the day and night are of approximately equal length.

Four seasons but two equinoxes.

When the Sun passes this point on about 23 September each year, the nights begin to grow longer than the days. They will continue to do so until the Winter Solstice in December.

For some people, it a moment of sadness or melancholy. Summer is over. School is back in session. Plants are dying off. Winter is coming.

As an October baby, I have always preferred autumn to summer. Cooler weather, sweaters, colored forests. Even the beach is better in September to me. No crowds, no badges, few tourists, no blazing sun to hide from.

Though we mark this time as the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, folks on the other side of the globe are marking the start of spring with their vernal equinox.

That’s a tough concept to wrap your mind around. The sun will continue to shift southward, bringing cooler weather to we Northerners, and warmer weather to the Southern Hemisphere.

People often confuse the solstice and equinox.  The Summer and Winter Solstices mark when the Sun is farthest north or south and the length of time between Sunrise and Sunset is the shortest of the year while the equinoxes mark the equal points in between.

Enjoy the cool breeze. Rub your hands and enjoy that first evening that you catch a wood fire from a distance. Brew a cup of tea.

For more information more about why we have changing seasons, go to http://crh.noaa.gov/fsd/astro/season.php.

The Pagan Calendar

Pagan circle for the Autumn Equinox (UK)

With the Full Moon and Equinox occurring on the same day this month, I think about how important these events were to ancient cultures.

I found a Pagan calendar online that shows Pagan, Witch, Druid and Heathen festivals, dates and events. Important Neo-Pagan festivals and religious holidays are included even if research into the origins are sketchy, as they are important in modern paganism.

Even if Paganism is far from your own beliefs, the stories of the fire festivals, the Celtic tree calendar, Pagan carvings, pictures, artifacts and writings are interesting to read in a historical context.

I will post this weekend, as I do each month, on the Full Moon and also on the Autumn Equinox, but here is some perspective on the equinox as viewed by Pagans.

The Autumn Equinox is called either Mabon, Harvest Home or Alban Elfed. On the autumnal equinox, there is a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and a recognition of the need to share them to secure the blessings of the Goddess and God during the winter months.

The use of the name Mabon is more prevalent in America (the calendar site is from the UK). In Britain, many Neo-Pagans of today dismiss Mabon as an unauthentic name. There is a good general introduction at wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabon

Autumnal Equinox

It’s fall – or it’s spring – depending on where you are when you read this today.

The Autumnal Equinox 2009 will occur today, September 22, at  21:18 UTC (17:18 EDT or 14:18 PDT).

To scientists, an equinox is either of two points on the celestial sphere where the ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect.

To most of us, it’s one of two times a year when the Sun crosses the equator, and the day and night are of approximately equal length. When the Sun passes this point, on about 23 September each year, nights begin to grow longer than days, and continue to do so until the Winter Solstice in December

During today’s autumnal equinox, the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator, from north to south. We mark this time as the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. On the other side of the globe, yesterday marked the start of spring with their vernal equinox.

During the next 3 months, the sun will continue to shift southward, bringing cooler weather to the Northern Hemisphere, and warmer weather to the Southern Hemisphere.

Is a solstice just another word for an equinox? No. The Summer and Winter Solstices mark when the Sun is farthest north or south and the length of time between Sunrise and Sunset is the shortest of the year while the equinoxes mark the equal points in between.

For more information more about why we have changing seasons, go to crh.noaa.gov/fsd/astro/season.php.