Get in touch with the autumnal equinox

Emily Hepner
Assoc. Features Editor

The air is starting to turn a bit crisper and cooler. Pumpkin Spice flavored anything is now at your every disposal and summer tans are beginning to fade. What do these odd facts have in common? They’re all signs that summer is over and fall is officially here. While throughout the past week at Millersville it has felt a little more like fall weather, the official first day of fall is September 22, also known as the autumnal equinox.

The autumnal equinox marks the start of fall and the decline of daylight hours.
The autumnal equinox marks the start of fall and the decline of daylight hours.

An equinox is an in-between point for the winter and summer solstices, explains National Geographic. The autumnal equinox generally occurs around September 22 or the 23. Now, you may be reading this and thinking, “This just gives me an excuse to officially shout, “It’s fall!” at everyone I pass, “but before you do that, there are some interesting facts about the autumnal equinox you should know.

According to the Weather Channel during both the autumnal and vernal (spring) equinox, day and night are at an even twelve hours all over the world, hence the name equinox which is derived from the Latin word aequinoctium (meaning equal night). This is due to the Earth’s axis rotating perpendicular toward the sun as opposed to tilting toward or away from it.

However, National Geographic says that the only way an exact twelve hours of day and night could occur is if the sun were a single point and the Earth had no atmosphere. While this seems conflicting, EarthSky explains that while the world isn’t getting an exact twelve hours of sunlight, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres are getting an even dispersal of sunlight for this time.

Even if there was an even twelve hours of both day and night, National Geographic says that it would be difficult to see due to trees and hills blocking the view. If you did have a flat view, the only thing you’d be able to see is the sun rising east and setting west, which only happens during the equinoxes. After the equinox, daylight in the Northern Hemisphere will begin to diminish until the winter solstice in December, while in the Southern Hemisphere sunlight will begin to grow more.

The vernal and autumnal equinox occur in between the summer and winter solstice.
The vernal and autumnal equinox occur in between the summer and winter solstice.

The International Business Times notes that the equinox is also a Pagan celebration, states International Business Times. Mabon gives thanks to the sunlight, but respect to the increase of night that is beginning. It is also a celebration of the second harvest and it marks the start of winter preparations. Mabon is apart of the eight Sabats that Pagans acknowledge, which are various celebrations based on the sun’s cycles. However this tradition has mostly been replaced by a Christian tradition known as Michaelmas. “The Feast of Michael and All Angels”, as it is also known by, is a tradition that is usually observed on September 29, since this is after the equinox. Historic UK says that St. Michael was a protector against the darkness that nighttime causes. Since the equinox is the start of longer nights, Michaelmas is a day to begin encouraging protection during the dark months, this comes from the belief that negative forces could be stronger in the night than they could be during the day.

Whatever equinox traditions you partake or believe in, one thing is for certain and that is that fall has arrived!