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Sun rises due east & sets due west on Equinox
In North America, this year's 2010 September equinox falls on September 22, at 11:09 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 10 p.m. Central Daylight Time, 9 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time and 8 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. At this magic hour, the Sun shines straight overhead at the Earth's equator, as the Sun journeys onward from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere. The September equinox marks the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere.
At the equinox, the Earth's North Pole and South Pole don't lean toward or away from the Sun. Therefore, the Sun rises due east and sets due west all over the world on the day of the equinox (except at the North and South Poles, where there is no east or west). Everyone everywhere receives about 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Technically, we have a little more day than night because atmospheric refraction causes the Sun to rise a bit earlier and to set bit later later than it would otherwise.
All-night appearance of Harvest Moon & Jupiter
This year's 2010 September equinox distinguishes itself by presenting an all-night appearance of the Full Moon and the brilliant planet Jupiter. Watch the Moon and Jupiter sail across the sky together from dusk till dawn. They'll rise in the east around sundown, soar highest up in the sky around midnight and set in the west around sunrise.
The closest Full Moon to the autumnal equinox enjoys the designation of Harvest Moon. This year's September Full Moon comes on September 23, at 5:17 a.m. EDT - only a scant 6 hours after the September equinox. The Equinox and the Full Harvest Moon both come to pass on the same night in North America - the night of September 22-23.
But that's not all! In a period of less than 2 days, three major astronomical events take place - Jupiter's opposition (the closest since 1951), the September equinox and the Full Moon! As far as I can tell, all three major events won't happen this close together again for many thousands of years to come. Be sure to celebrate night of the 2010 September equinox by watching the rare all-night presence of the Full Moon and Jupiter.
Indeed, the 2010 September equinox is one to remember!
copyright 2010 by Bruce McClure
August 2010 Feature * October 2010 Feature