You no doubt have noticed the shorter days, later sunrises and earlier sunsets. It’s all part of our never ending journey around the Sun and the fact that the Earth is tilted on it’s axis as shown above. This year’s Autumnal, or Fall, Equinox will occur on Tuesday, September 22, at 8:31 am. Explanations below are Courtesy of the National Weather Service.
The Equinoxes (Vernal & Autumnal)
There are only two times of the year when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, resulting in a “nearly” equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes. These events are referred to as Equinoxes.The word equinox is derived from two Latin words – aequus (equal) and nox (night). At the equator, the sun is directly overhead at noon on these two equinoxes. The “nearly” equal hours of day and night is due to refraction of sunlight or a bending of the light’s rays that causes the sun to appear above the horizon when the actual position of the sun is below the horizon. Additionally, the days become a little longer at the higher latitudes (those at a distance from the equator) because it takes the sun longer to rise and set. Therefore, on the equinox and for several days before and after the equinox, the length of day will range from about 12 hours and six and one-half minutes at the equator, to 12 hours and 8 minutes at 30 degrees latitude, to 12 hours and 16 minutes at 60 degrees latitude.
The Solstices (Summer & Winter)
The summer solstice occurs at the moment the earth’s tilt toward from the sun is at a maximum. Therefore, on the day of the summer solstice, the sun appears at its highest elevation with a noontime position that changes very little for several days before and after the summer solstice. The summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, which is located at 23.5° latitude North, and runs through Mexico, the Bahamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, and southern China. For every place north of the Tropic of Cancer, the sun is at its highest point in the sky and this is the longest day of the year. The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, which is located at 23.5° south of the equator and runs through Australia, Chile, southern Brazil, and northern South Africa.