If you were to stand on the equator, twice a year you would be able to see the sun directly overhead. Those two days are our spring and autumn equinoxes and happen about three weeks into each March and September. Today, September 22nd, marks this year's Autumn Equinox.
On those two days of the year, the day lasts just as long as the night and that's how it the equinox got it's name: Equinox literally translates to "equal night". Many people believe that early civilizations like the Celts and Egyptians held a special reverence for these days and may have built monuments like Stonehenge as tributes to them.
You should keep in mind though that there are plenty of myths about the equinox. You can't actually balance an egg on it's end any better today than any other day of the year. Also, because the earth is curved, those of us at higher or lower latitudes will actually have to wait a couple more days for our 'equal night'. Here in Portsmouth, VA, that will happen this upcoming Sunday, September 25th, when the day and night will each last exactly 12 hours. That doesn't make it another equinox though since the true equinox is determined by the sun's position relative to the whole earth and not just us as observers.
One thing is for sure though, the autumn equinox means a lot of changes for the wildlife here at Hoffler Creek. Less time in the sun will mean that many of the trees will be losing their leaves soon. Squirrels and raccoons will be hurrying to store or eat the abundance of late summer berries. We're already seeing many of the migrating birds species that will be stopping through on their way to warmer places further south.
Check out Wikipedia's page about equinoxes for more information about these astronomical events or stop in at our headquarters this fall so we can point out what's going on around here as the seasons change! We hope to see you this season!
- James Bussey, Programs & Communications Coordinator (from eBlast dated 22 Sept. 2016)