As Earth revolves around the Sun, there are two moments each year when the Sun is exactly above the equator. These moments are called equinoxes. Equinox literally means “equal night," since the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world during the equinoxes.
The March equinox marks when the Northern Hemisphere starts to tilt toward the sun, which means longer, sunnier days. In the Northern Hemisphere, the March equinox is called the vernal equinox, because it signals the beginning of spring. (Vernal means fresh or new like the spring.)
The vernal equinox is probably the most important astronomical event of the year because it not only marks the first day of spring, but it also marks the beginning of the astronomical year. It’s interesting that you cannot observe it in the night sky because it involves the sun which floods the sky with light and makes it impossible to see what is actually happening.
People have celebrated the vernal equinox for centuries. For ancient cultures, the vernal equinox signaled that their food supplies would soon return. Early Egyptians even built the Great Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox.
How do people celebrate the vernal equinox or the coming of spring today? Holi is a Hindu spring festival when for two straight days people throw colorful powders on each other until everyone looks like human tie-dyes. In Zurich, Switzerland, the residents celebrate spring by burning a giant snowman made of cloth and stuffed with fireworks called the “Böögg”. Maybe one of the most enjoyable ways to celebrate spring is to go south with the college kids for Spring Break. Destination – libation – incarceration – yay spring!
No matter how you celebrate spring, come join the Sugar Creek Astronomical Society at Hobbs State Park and learn more about the vernal equinox.
What to Bring if you can:
- Flashlight (covered with a red cloth or red balloon)
- Binoculars and/or telescope (if you have)
- Folding chair – one per person
- Star chart (if you have one)
Where: Hobbs State Park visitor center located on Hwy 12 just east of the Hwy. 12/War Eagle Road intersection
When: March 17, 2018
7:00 pm lecture
8:00 pm night sky viewing
Cost: Free – Public invited
Great for families and scout groups
For more information, call: 479-789-5000