You can feel it in the air, you can see it in the leaves and you can taste it in your pumpkin spice lattes.
Summer is dwindling down and fall is quickly making its presence known. You can spend a little time mourning the loss of our precious hours of sunlight while you dig out the box of sweaters from the back of the closet. (It’s still 80 degrees outside, so you can just stare at the box, you don’t have to use it.)
If you like to do some late-night pondering like me, you are left with many questions about this seasonal shift. What is the autumnal equinox? Why does it happen in September? What changes can I expect?
Have no fear, I found the stargazing guru who is full of answers.
James Albury is the planetarium coordinator at Santa Fe’s Planetarium, co-host of PBS TV series “Star Gazers” and a total star enthusiast. His passion for astronomy is unmatched and he knows everything about this mysterious autumnal equinox.
First, let’s start with the basics.
An equinox occurs when the sun’s rays directly shine on the equator causing everyone on earth to experience 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
Albury shared that there are only two equinoxes’ every year — one in September and one in March. These are commonly known as the autumnal and spring equinoxes’ that mark the start of fall and spring.
Each year, the autumnal equinox will occur on September 22, 23 and 24. This year, the equinox will occur this Wednesday at 4:22 a.m.
The North and South Pole undergo something a little different. In the North Pole, the sun will set and not rise again until the next equinox on March 20. In the South Pole, it’s reversed. The sun will rise and then will stay shining until March. Basically, if you’re looking to catch a killer tan, the South Pole is your place to go and if you’re craving an extended nap, head to the North Pole.
While the weather does change, the equinox marks more than just a difference in temperature.
Many religions celebrate and partake in festivals during this phase. One example is the Moon Festival in China, which applauds the abundance of summer’s harvest and rejoices in all the gifts of the season.
This equinox also aligns with the pagan holiday, Mabon. For many pagan traditions, this shift of seasons is time to give thanks for all they have. They rejoice in the balance between light and dark and celebrate the gifts of the earth.
Although the change from summer to autumn isn’t an obvious one in Florida, we still notice some slight changes.
The most obvious change you will notice is the decrease in daylight. Those long summer nights are retiring for a few months, so don’t be alarmed when you wake up for that 8 a.m. lecture and it’s as dark as the coffee brewing in your Keurig.
Whether you’re up at 4:22 a.m. this Wednesday or not, take a few moments to be grateful for all the hazy summer days. (You don’t have to be a pagan to give thanks, people.) Soak in those last few bits summer and start getting cozy, because autumn is coming our way.
As James Albury always says, “Keep looking up!”