The Fall Equinox takes place today, Sept. 22, but there might be some things you haven’t learned about it yet. For instance, what time does it start exactly? Here’s 5 things to know!
Happy first day of fall! The Autumnal equinox is today, Sept. 22, which means, here in the Northern Hemisphere, the leaves will be changing color soon, the temperatures will cool, and the grocery stores will be stocked with pumpkin spice flavored everything. But when exactly is the fall equinox? Below, we’ve gathered 5 fast facts about Autumn that you might not know!
1. The Fall equinox changes from year to year. This year, it falls on Saturday, September 22 at exactly 9:54 p.m. ET. This is the moment in which the Sun will be directly in line with the equator.
2. Equinox means “equal night.” On both the fall and spring equinoxes, most places on Earth will experience approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. However, it won’t be exact due to the way sunlight gets refracted, or bent, as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at different latitudes. For instance, New York City will have 12 hours and 9 minutes of sunlight. Now that the Northern Hemisphere is in fall, the days will continue to get shorter until the Winter Solstice on Friday, December 21.
3. Fall is caused by Earth’s tilt in relation to the sun – not its distance. The reason we have seasons is because of Earth’s tilted axis. The tilt – possibly caused by a massive object hitting Earth billions of years ago – means that the North Pole is pointed toward the sun for half the year, and the South Pole is pointed toward the sun during the other half. This is also why the Northern Hemisphere enjoys summer while the Southern Hemisphere is in the midst of winter, and vice versa.
4. Americans are really the only ones who call Autumn “Fall.” This season was originally called “Harvest” up until the 1300s, when the term “autumn” was introduced in English writing and became massively popular. Poets later coined the phrase “the fall of leaves,” which was shorted to “fall” in the 1600s. At the time, there was a lack of consistent communication between the English and those in the American colonies, which led to a difference in the language. Autumn stayed popular in the U.K., while Americans took up “fall.”
5. Leaves change color thanks to chlorophyll and the dropping temperatures. Leaves actually have the potential to be yellow, orange, and sometimes red or purple, all year long – it’s just highly unlikely. In spring and summer, the pigment chlorophyll gives leaves their green color. Once the days become shorter during the fall and the temperatures cool off, the chlorophyll begins breaking down and exposing the other pigments that cause the yellow, orange and red leaves we love so much.