The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday January 23rd

Pit Talk

Spring: Explained

Sunday was a day of many firsts. 

  • First day of realizing how much homework you should have done over break. 
  • First day of realizing how much laundry you should have done over break. 
  • First day of realizing how many tests you have coming up this week. 
  • First day of realizing how many projects you have coming up this week….

You get the point.

There’s one happy first, though, among all the doom and gloom: the first day of spring.

If you’re anything like me, you hear people throwing around words like “equinox,” and get the vague idea that they don’t really know what they are talking about. But neither do you, so you can't really call them out on it. Now you can.

The first day of spring is related to a phenomenon called the vernal equinox. According to environment.about.com, “vernal” means “summer” and “equinox” means “equal night.” This is actually not so hard to remember, since “equi” kind of sounds like “equal”. At least it does in my head…

According to almanac.com, the equinox occurs when the sun shines directly on the equator, causing night and day to be approximately equal. The vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere corresponds to the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa. The difference is that the autumnal equinox signals the start of autumn, while the vernal equinox signals the start of spring.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

It pretty much is. Until you realize that spring usually starts on March 21 but this year it started on March 19 or 20 (depending on the time zone). What’s the deal with that?

It turns out that, yet again, one of the “facts” we all learned in elementary school is not a fact at all. Typical college.

A year does not have 365 days.

It has about 365.2422 days (thanks again almanac.com). That’s why we have a leap year every four years. Sadly, this doesn’t entirely fix the problem, since each year isn’t exactly 365.25 days.

All of this means that spring came earlier this year. Don’t ask why. Just trust the almanac, it knows everything.

Here’s some fun facts about the vernal equinox now that you know what that means:

This is the earliest spring since 1896, according to almanac.com. To put that in perspective, brainyhistory.com says that’s the year the first movie theatre opened in the U.S. It cost 10 cents. I think we should bring more things from 1896 back.

The moon during March is known as the Full Worm Moon, according to almanac.com. For some reason, worms like to come out of the ground at this time.

Apparently, there is a popular myth that you can balance a raw egg on its head only during the vernal equinox. According to environment.about.com, you can balance said egg during any time of the year, so this myth is categorically false. Sorry to crack your hopes.

Happy spring everyone!

@meggiecruser

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