The September equinox is here! Today, September 22 is one of only two days in the year where day and night will be almost equal in most places in the Northern Hemisphere. The first equinox of the year was in March, on or about the 21st.
Our planet’s equinoxes are interesting and they’re popular marks of transition between one season to another. Here are ten things you should know about the fall equinox.
- Goodbye summer, hello autumn. In North America and the rest of our neighbors in the Northern Hemisphere, we mark this occasion as the first day of autumn. In our part of the world, Chicago’s North Suburbs – Glenview, Northbrook and Evanston, we recognize this occasion with mild temperatures and beautiful fall colors.
- Next up is the December Solstice. The moderate temperatures, especially in our North Shore area, will decline as winter sets in. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year when Earth is tilted furthest away from the sun. Chicagoans usually have slightly less romantic viewers about these short, cold days around this time, but it gives us spring equinox to look forward to.
- Not everyone is in the dark. People in the Southern Hemisphere have it the opposite as we do; they are celebrating their summer solstice – the longest day of the year.
- Actually…equinox is not a whole day occasion. Technically, the actual moment of equinox is the point when the sun crosses the celestial equator, which is the boundary between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.
- And not everyone on Earth actually gets to experience total equinox. Although the term ‘equinox’ means ‘equal night’ in Latin, it’s not true that everyone on Earth will experience exactly equal day and night – that depends on where you are in the world.
- And the timing of day and night can be different due to how ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’ is defined. On the day of equinoxes, the dead center of the sun is above the horizon for 12 hours but here’s how things can get skewed: sunrise is defined as the instant the upper edge, not the center, of the sun is visible above the horizon. Sunset is defined as the instant the top edge is no longer visible on the horizon. These definitions create extra daylight minutes that makes the equinox, at least on paper, uneven.
- The Earth is not tilted… for just a moment. At this moment in time, the Earth is not tilted either towards or away from the sun. However, the Earth’s universal 23.4 degree tilt towards the celestial pole will remain in place. Goes to show, during this planetary shift, some things stay the same.
- The September equinox showcases bright nightly moons. Any avid sky gazer will want to check out this astronomically special event: the Harvest moon and the days surrounding its appearance. During the weeks around the September equinox, there’s a shorter amount of time between moonrises. This year, it was on September 16. Usually the moon rises about 50 minutes after sundown, but on and around the September equinox, the moon will rise early, about 30-35 minutes after sunset since the moon’s orbital path makes a narrow angle with the evening horizon line. It makes for a stunning moon that appears bigger than usual since it’s closer to Earth.
- Glimpse the Northern Lights. You’ll have to be pretty far north – Sorry, even our most north suburban communities we serve, like Lake Forest, Zion and Mundelein, may be too far south to catch this amazing light show. The September equinox is a prime time to see the Aurora Borealis. NASA said that people in North America are twice as likely to see this spectacular occurrence now. The vibrant lights are caused by electrically charged particles from solar winds when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere and interact with gases. The last time the Northern Lights were visible from the Chicago area was last year in November. However, our neighbors to the north in Wisconsin – especially in rural areas, can sometimes see the lights.
- It’s a time to celebrate! Many religions and cultures around the world, for centuries, have celebrated the equinox, whether it’s the fall or spring season. The Ancient Greeks thought the goddess of Persephone returned to the underworld to be with her husband Hades. The Mayan Aztecs even constructed the Temple of Kukulcán in Chichén Itzá on the Yucatan Peninsula to honor one of their gods. During each equinox, the shadows on the 365 steps, one for every day of the year, create the image of the snake god Kukulkan.
Interested in more about the September equinox? Check out this video from National Geographic about the equinox and learn more fun stuff about our changing seasons.
If the thought of fall arriving is making you think about how you and your family will stay comfortable and warm this winter, give us a call. Although we all can appreciate the beauty of the Harvest Moon over Lake Michigan, not everyone in the North Shore is going back inside to a home with a glowing furnace or a thermostat that works as reliably as the sunrise and sunset each day. That’s where we can help you get your heating system ready for the chilly weather ahead. Don’t waste time worrying about the temperature outside. If you think you may need a new furnace, check out this handy guide or just contact us for a hassle-free consultation.
Remember, we won’t be comfortable until you are! Don’t wait until the next full moon, call us today – we’re at 847.509.2024.