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Global Skywatch

Spring Equinox

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 is the spring equinox. Do something special to celebrate. Mark that day in some memorable fashion.

Your wall calendars and media will call today “first day of spring” or some other trivializing phrase, as if it is a meaningless Hallmark holiday. Do not confuse it with other fabricated events on your pre-printed calendar. Mankind has paid attention to solstices and equinoxes throughout our history.

The days have been getting longer since the winter solstice, and will continue growing until the summer solstice June 21st. Wednesday is exactly half-way in between. It defines the shift from snow-cold-snow-cold to robins, flowers, butterflies and shedding jackets during the day.

Pessimists say The Bitterroot has three seasons: snow, flood and smoke.
I suppose we had better broadcast it like that lest we end up like so many places where the snowflakes are a political force rather than a natural one.

Interestingly, this equinox coincides with a full moon. My organic gardening mentor encouraged us to plant on every full moon. Not so much that it favored the plants themselves, but because it organized us to do regular plantings whether that was seeds, bare-root, or transplants. Get something started every full moon and you will always have a good garden.

Double incentive to plant something memorable Wednesday. Or maybe I’ll put up some targets and shoot something for the first time this year. Perhaps both. Sounds good to me.

The equinoxes are the only times when the solar terminator (the “edge” between night and day) is perpendicular to the equator. As a result, the northern and southern hemispheres are equally illuminated. The word comes from Latin equi or “equal” and nox meaning “night”.

In other words, the equinoxes are the only times when the subsolar point is on the equator, meaning that the Sun is exactly overhead at a point on the equatorial line. The subsolar point crosses the equator moving northward at the March equinox and southward at the September equinox.

The equinoxes, along with solstices, are directly related to the seasons of the year. In the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox (March) conventionally marks the beginning of spring in most cultures and is considered the New Year in the Persian calendar or Iranian calendars as Nowruz (means new day), while the autumnal equinox (September) marks the beginning of autumn.