The end of winter comes on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, this year, as the sun’s rays cross Earth’s celestial equator and day and night finish as equals.
The spring equinox is the astronomical end of the darkest, coldest days of the year.
Unlike Daylight Saving Time when most states set their clocks forward one hour, the equinox is nature’s promise that earlier sunrises and later sunsets are imminent. The sun rises due east and sets due west on the equinox.
“It means from now on, for the next six months, the days will be longer than the nights,” said Sam Storch, a retired astronomy professor and member of the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches. “It is an opportunity to point out that the ancients were more in touch with how things changed in the sky than we are, and used the changes as benchmarks in their lives.”
In spring, the sickle-shaped head and torso of the constellation Leo appear in the eastern sky as belted Orion retires to the west, eventually disappearing in the sun’s glare by June’s summer solstice.
Storch said the rise of Leo was a signal for farmers to begin clearing fields for planting season.
“Orion reminds us that winter has come to an end as we see it falling sadly into the twilight of the west,” Storch said.
Astronomical seasons don’t correspond with meteorological seasons, which are grouped neatly by months to correspond with what are supposed to be the coldest or warmest days of the year. Meteorological winter ends March 1, while astronomical winter ends with the spring equinox.
© 2018 Cox Media Group.