Watching the Skies: Sun to cross equator for start of spring

Watching The Skies

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — At the end of this week, the sun will cross the celestial equator from south to north and the spring season will begin.

The vernal equinox will occur on March 20 at 5:37 a.m. At the time of the equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator. Daylight hours and nighttime hours are nearly equal in both the northern and southern hemisphere.

In the days surrounding an equinox, we see the fastest sunrises and sunsets. This is due to the angle at which the sun sinks beneath the horizon.

The sun sets most directly in the west and rises most directly in the east during an equinox, which means the sun hits the horizon at the steepest possible angle. From our perspective, the sun takes a shorter amount of time to sink beneath the horizon or rise above it.

If you’re outside during the evening this week, try to catch a glimpse of Mars, the moon and the Pleiades star cluster. The three will be close together on March 18-20.

On March 18, the moon will be just below the Pleiades star cluster. The moon will be just to the left of Mars on March 19, and above the red planet and the star cluster on March 20.

The waxing moon should help identify Mars and the Pleiades easily enough, but Orion’s belt will also point in the direction you want to look.

To check it out, look to the west during the evening.

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