or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Day for Night

Well, happy Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring and the sure sign that this miserable winter is going to be behind us sooner or later, probably sooner. (Right here, right now, it's bright, sunny, and minus 10 Celsius. Enough of this!)

You're not one of those people who thinks every year that the first day of spring is always March 21st, are you? Because it's not. It can be on the 20th (usually) or the 21st (more rarely). This year it happens to be the 21st, for reasons that I'm not going to go into because I have no idea what they are and I could do the research but I have to go to the gym in the next few minutes or I'm never going. For the next 7 years, it will be on the 20th.

"Vernal Equinox" is a very Latin phrase indeed. "Vernal" comes from "vernus", which in turn comes from "ver", "spring". (The other three are "aestas", "autumnus", and "hibernus". "Hibernus" gives us, self-evidently, "hibernate", to go into a dormant state in the winter, but you may not have known that that there's an opposite, "estivate", which means to go dormant in the summer.)

"Equinox" is a French abbreviation of the Latin "aequinoctium", which means "equal night": the night and the day are of exactly equal lengths. If you have a Mac, you can run a little piece of software--a widget--called SunClock that shows you where the sun is in any part of the world. Most of the time, the demarcation line between day and night is a sinuous curve, as you can see here:

On the Vernal Equinox, however, it's as close as it ever comes to being a couple of straight vertical lines. Until the Autumnal Equinox, I mean.


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