Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vernal Equinox TODAY

An equinox in astronomy is the event when the Sun can be observed to be directly above the Earth's equator, occurring around March 20 and September 23 each year. More technically, the equinox happens when the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator and ecliptic intersect. In a wider sense, the equinoxes are the two days each year when the center of the Sun spends an equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on Earth. The word equinox derives from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night).In practice, the day is longer than the night. 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. Furthermore, the atmosphere refracts light; so, even when the upper limb of the Sun is below the horizon, its rays reach over the horizon to the ground. In sunrise/sunset tables, the assumed semi-diameter of the sun is 16 minutes of arc (minutes refering to parts of a degree, not minutes of daylight) and the assumed refraction is 34 minutes of arc. Their combination means that when the upper limb of Sun is on the visible horizon its center is 50 minutes of arc below the geometric horizon, which is the intersection with the celestial sphere of a horizontal plane through the eye of the observer. These effects together make the day about 14 minutes longer than the night at the equator, and longer still at sites toward the poles. The real equality of day and night only happens at places far enough from the equator to have at least a seasonal difference in daylength of 7 minutes and occurs a few days towards the winter side of each equinox.
Above informaiton is from Wikipedia

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