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First Day of Spring - Vernal Equinox is March 20, 2008

Easter Is Early This Year

March 20, 2008       Leave a Comment
By: Julie McCallum,
Senior Staff

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At an equinox, the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator and ecliptic intersect.
 

Even though it might not feel like spring, today, March 20, 2008, the Sun will cross directly over the Earth's equator.

This moment is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

At an equinox, the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points - the vernal point and the autumnal point.

There is either an equinox (autumn and spring) or a solstice (summer and winter) on approximately the 21st day of the last month of every quarter of the calendar year. On a day which has an equinox, the center of the Sun will spend a nearly equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on Earth and night and day will be of nearly the same length. The word equinox derives from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night).

The day is longer than the night at an equinox. Commonly the day is defined as the period that sunlight reaches the ground in the absence of local obstacles. From Earth, the Sun appears as a disc and not a single point of light; so, when the center of the Sun is below the horizon, the upper edge is visible.

Because of the 23.4 degree tilt of the Earth's axis, we receive the Sun's rays most directly in the summer. In the winter, when we are tilted away from the Sun, the rays pass through the atmosphere at a greater slant, bringing lower temperatures. If the Earth rotated on an axis perpendicular to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, there would be no variation in day lengths or temperatures throughout the year, and we would not have seasons.




Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox. This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.


Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) that is rare. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!

The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!


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Julie McCallum,
Senior Staff



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