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Posts Tagged ‘Vernal Equinox’

03/20/2020 – Ephemeris – The first full day of spring

March 20, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, March 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 11 minutes, setting at 7:55, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:43. The Moon, half way from last quarter to new, will rise at 7:00 tomorrow morning.

Spring snuck up on us at 11:50 p.m. last night, so this is the first full day of spring. That point in time and the point in the sky where the Sun crossed the celestial equator the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator heading northward is called the vernal equinox. Vernal means spring and equinox means equal night, meaning that day and night are equal. Since western civilization has spread south of the equator where seasons are reversed, our northern hemisphere spring equinox is the southern hemisphere’s autumnal equinox, so to be fair to both hemispheres we generally say March or September equinox instead. However the point in the sky the Sun crossed last night will always be known as the vernal equinox.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Sun at the vernal equinox

The Sun at the vernal equinox point on the celestial sphere at 11;50 p.m. EDT last night (March 19, 2020). The diagonal yellow line in the ecliptic, the Sun’s path in the sky. The vertical lines marked in hours at the top are lines of right ascension, the analog of earthly longitude. The horizontal lines are lines of declination, the same as latitude on the Earth. I referenced this point in yesterday’s program. Created using Cartes du Ciel *Sky Charts).

Sun's path through the sky on the equinox

The Sun’s path through the sky on the equinox day from Traverse City, MI. Note that the Sun rises due east and sets due west. Created using my LookingUp program.

03/19/2019 – Ephemeris – Spring and a super-moon happen tomorrow

March 19, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, March 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 7:53, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:46. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:55 tomorrow morning.

Today and tomorrow are busy days, astronomically speaking, for the Earth, Sun and Moon. This afternoon at 3:47 the Moon will reach the perigee point in its orbit of the Earth, its closest point of 223,200 miles (359,400 km) center to center. With the full moon just 30 hours later this will make the Moon a super-moon, the third in a row. The Moon will be full enough to call tonight’s moon a super-moon too when it rises around 6:16 p.m. The next event will be the coming of spring, when the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator heading northward. For a point in the Pacific Ocean, on the equator the Sun will be directly overhead at 5:58 p.m. our time or 21 hours, 58 minutes Universal Time or Greenwich Mean Time.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Mini Moon and Super Moon

Mini Moon and Super Moon for 2017. Trouble is the Moon appears alone with nothing to compare it to when it is seen in the sky. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Sun's path through the sky on the equinox

The Sun’s path through the sky on the equinox day from Traverse City, MI. Created using my LookingUp program. (This is from a couple of years ago. The actual length of daylight depends on when during the day the moment of the equinox occurs.  I’ll have more on that Thursday.)

03/18/2019 – Ephemeris – Spring, the full moon and Easter

March 18, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, March 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 2 minutes, setting at 7:52, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:48. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 7:21 tomorrow morning.

Spring is two days away. In checking my astronomical calendars I noticed an odd thing related to the date of Easter for western churches. If I said that the date of Easter was the first Sunday after the first full Moon after the vernal equinox. I’d be wrong. Even if I replaced vernal equinox with first day of spring, I would still be wrong by ecclesiastical standards. The ecclesiastical vernal equinox is March 21st, no matter what. Plus the full moon date is a tabulated value and not necessarily the astronomical full moon date. This year the astronomical first full moon of spring falls less than 4 hours after the astronomical vernal equinox on March 20th. Therefore Easter will be late this year on April 21st, 4 days earlier than its latest possible date.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

03/20/2018 – Ephemeris – Spring begins later today!

March 20, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, March 20th. The Sun will rise at 7:45. It’ll be up for 12 hours and 9 minutes, setting at 7:55. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 11:30 this evening.

At 12:15 p.m. the season of spring will begin. It may or may not feel it in our neck of the woods, but astronomically at that time the Sun will appear to cross a point in the sky called the vernal equinox. Equinox means equal night, when the Sun is up for 12 hours, and set for 12 hours. It does, if you don’t look too close, and in the old days clock weren’t that accurate anyway. The vernal equinox is the point in the sky where the Sun crosses the celestial equator, which is above the Earth’s equator heading north. The North Pole will begin 6 months of daylight, while the rest of the northern hemisphere will bask in more than 12 hours of sunlight a day. The reverse is true in the southern hemisphere where autumn will start.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Sun at the vernal equinox

The Sun at the vernal equinox point in the sky at 12:15 p.m. EDT (16:15 UT) March 20, 2018. That point is the starting point in measurements on the celestial sphere. 0 hours right ascension, 0 degrees declination. The yellow line is the ecliptic, the plane of the Earth’s orbit and the apparent path of the Sun, whivh moves about one degree per day from lower right to upper left. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

The Earth from DSCOVR/EPIC

The Earth from 2 days before the vernal equinox, with the north pole not quite in sunlight. I’ve added a magnifying spot showing Michigan. The white stuff fringing the upper part of the Michigan mitten is snow. It was a rare clear day Saturday when this image was taken. Credit NOAA/NASA/DSCOVR satellite/EPIC camera.

The DSCOVR satellite was 914,903 miles (1,472,394 km) sunward of the Earth at the time of the image.  The satellite is in a halo orbit of the Lagrangian L1 point between the Earth and the Sun.

04/14/2014 – Ephemeris – Why does Easter occur on a different Sunday every year?

April 14, 2017 Comments off

The answer is astronomical!

Ephemeris for Good Friday, Friday, April 14th.  The Sun will rise at 6:59.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 8:26.  The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 11:48 this evening.

Easter will be celebrated by western and eastern christian churches this Sunday.  Easter is a movable feast in that it falls on a different date each year following the first full moon of spring.  It’s an attempt to follow the Jewish Passover, which starts on the 15th of the month of Nisan.  Being a lunar calendar the 15th the generally the night of the full moon.  And since the Last Supper was a Seder, the Christian church wanted to follow Passover as closely as possible using the Roman solar based calendar where the year was 365.25 days long.  Passover started at sunset this past Monday night.  The western churches eventually adopted the Gregorian calendar to keep in sync with the seasons.  The Eastern churches did not, however Easter is late enough this year so they both fall on the same date.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The seasonal, or officially the Tropical Year, from vernal equinox to vernal equinox is approximately 365.24220 days long, about 11 1/2 minutes shorter than the Julian (after Julius Caesar) Calendar year.  The Julian Calendar kept up with the year by having three 365 ordinary years and one leap year of 366 days.  It over corrects.  To make the calculation for Easter easier in the various dioceses of the far-flung church, the vernal equinox, the day the Sun crosses the celestial equator, heading northward was defined as March 21st.  The actual vernal equinox was falling behind the Julian Calendar by 0.8 days every century.

By 1582 the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Gregory XIII decided to correct the problem.  By then the real vernal equinox occurred on March 11th.  Easter is supposed to be a spring feast, and using March 21st as the vernal equinox would eventually push Easter into summer.  The Pope instituted a commission to look into the problem.  This commission headed by Christophorus Clavius* came up with what we know as the Gregorian Calendar.  First, eliminate 10 days from the calendar.  This was done in October 1582 between October 4th and 15th.  Then to keep the calendar in sync with the actual year it was decreed that leap years would continued for years divisible by 4; except that century years, those divisible by 100 be ordinary years, except those by also divisible by 400.  Thus the year 1900 was an ordinary year, but the year 2000 was a leap year, and the year 2100 will be an ordinary year.  Adoption of this as a civil calendar took 400 years to be universal.

The Greek Orthodox and other eastern churches kept the Julian Calendar, so on occasion their Easter is sometimes celebrated in May.  The Jewish Calendar is, as I alluded to in the program transcript, a lunar calendar.  It has a relationship to the Julian Calendar in that 19 Julian Years equals 235 lunar months almost exactly. This is called the Metonic Cycle.  Those 235 months equal 12 lunar years of 12 and 13 months.  So without correction Passover too will slowly head into summer in millennia to come.

* Clavius was honored by having a large, rather spectacular crater on the Moon named for him.  Search these posts for Clavius to find it.

 

 

 

03/20/2017 – Ephemeris – Spring starts today!

March 20, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, March 20th.  The Sun will rise at 7:45.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 7:55.  The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 3:39 tomorrow morning.

This morning, at 6:29 (10:29 UT) the sun crosses overhead at the earth’s equator as it appears to head north, starting for us the season of spring.  It’s the vernal equinox.  As you can tell from my intro, we’re already above 12 hours of daylight, and we’ll add another 3 plus hours of daylight before summer begins in three months.  We are already adding about 3 minutes a day of daylight to that goal now, the maximum rate.  With the Sun out longer and its ascension higher in the sky each day, it is rapidly adding energy to the northern hemisphere.  We don’t feel that immediately.  While the land rapidly absorbs heat, the oceans and lakes, especially the Great Lakes are a big heat sink, taking a very long time to warm up.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

This March equinox also is the beginning of autumn for folks south of the equator.

Earth near equinox

Image from the DISCOVR satellite in halo orbit at the Earth-Sun L1 point, nearly a million miles (1.6 million km) sunward of the Earth. as of March 17, 2017. As usual Michigan is covered by a cloud.  Credit NOAA/NASA.

11/24/2016 – Ephemeris – The little constellation that used to start the seasonal year

November 24, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24th.  The Sun will rise at 7:52.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 5:06.  The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:54 tomorrow morning.

From antiquity, the first constellation of the Zodiac has been Aries the ram.  That’s the constellation the Sun entered on the first day of spring, or the vernal equinox.  Well that was a couple of thousand years ago.  Currently the vernal equinox point is in western Pisces.  This is due to the wobbling of the Earth’s axis called precession.  The spinning Earth like and top or gyroscope wobbles when force is applied to it.  In this case the Sun and Moon.  One wobble takes 26,000 years to complete.  Anyway, Aries is a small constellation of four stars in a bent line, below the triangular constellation of Triangulum, which is itself below Andromeda.  It’s a bit west or right of the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Aries the ram

Aries the ram animated finder chart for 9 p.m. November 24, 2016. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The vernal equinox today

The vernal equinox today, where the blue line, the celestial equator and the orange line, the ecliptic or path of the Sun cross. The Sun is where these lines cross on the first day of spring (March 20th around here). Note that the vernal equinox is now in western Pisces. Created using Stellarium.

The vernal equinox in AD 100

The vernal equinox back in AD 100, where the blue line, the celestial equator and the orange line, the ecliptic or path of the Sun cross. The Sun is where these lines cross on the first day of spring. Note that the vernal equinox was at the east edge of Pisces. Created using Stellarium.