Today is the Spring Equinox, the First Day of Spring! The sun and the earth are in their places. Hopefully the weather will get the message soon! It’s at this time of year that the sun is directly in front of you if you’re heading west near the time of sunset, or east at sunrise, making driving a bit of a challenge. This happens because wherever you are on the planet, the sun is rising due east and setting due west.
When I was teaching Earth Science in high school, I celebrated this day with my students in a way I hoped they would remember what the equinox is all about. Twice a year on the days of the spring and fall equinoxes, I would bring cupcakes to school – but not just any cupcakes. These were Equinox Cupcakes: half chocolate and half yellow, with frosting to match, representing the fact that on this day there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness all over the world, no matter how far north or south you may be.
The equinox is caused by the earth’s position in its orbit around the sun. On all other days of the year, the tilt of the axis causes more sunlight to fall in one hemisphere or the other, causing winter in the northern hemisphere while it’s summer in the southern, and vice versa. But on the Spring and Fall Equinoxes everybody gets 12 and 12.
I am also fascinated by phases of the moon, and many other observable occurrences caused by the movements of the earth, sun, moon, and planets. I have been known go out and measure the angle of the sun in the sky, or measure the sun’s shadow at various times of the day, simply out of curiosity.
Nowadays there are websites a person can use to find out anything he wants to know about angles, length of daylight, and any other calculation he might be curious about. My days of measuring these things directly are probably over too, although I must admit, as I am out walking if I see a straight pole casting a shadow, I may try to estimate the length of the shadow compared to the height of the pole and mentally calculate how high the sun must be right now.
You may be wondering why I’m sharing this with you. Just to show you that I am truly weird? No, that isn’t why. I have mentioned in previous blogs how reassuring I find it that we can count on astronomical line-ups taking place at their appointed times, as they have been for thousands of years. I get excited about tangible evidences of God’s faithfulness. He tells us why He set this all in place: “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years’” (Genesis 1:14).
Maybe the equinoxes are also a bit special to me because it sounds like my name is in the word. The name comes from two Latin words: equi meaning “equal,” and nox meaning “night,” because the length of night is equal everywhere on that day. But there’s more than that. What most intrigues me about the equinox is the fact that it is a time of balance, perfect balance between the day and night, and that it’s happening everywhere. But when I celebrate the equinox, it is not a celebration of the sun, the earth, or their motions and angles. I am celebrating the faithfulness of our Creator God.
It has been a few years since I made my last batch of cupcakes, but I remain intrigued at this astronomical line-up that occurs regularly and predictably twice a year.
Happy Equinox Day! I hope spring arrives soon where you are!
Photo from examiner.com