When the leaves start to fall, the temperatures drop, and the days get shorter, that can only mean fall is coming — and that brings with it home comforts, bronzed woodland tones, and a few pumpkins.
For many, fall is fun because of the festivals and the feeling that “life starts all over again when it gets chilly in the fall,” if you’re of the same mind as F. Scott Fitzgerald.
According to the astronomical calendar, the seasonal transition occurs on September 23, the date of the autumnal equinox. However, according to the meteorological definition, which is based on the Gregorian calendar, autumn started on September 1.
Here’s everything you need to know about the changing seasons, from how the equinox works to what you can look forward to in the coming months.
Why is it called the autumnal equinox?
Because day and night are almost exactly the same length – 12 hours – the event is called the equinox around the world, which literally means ‘equal night’ in Latin (equi – equal and nox – night).
In reality, however, equinoxes do not have exactly 12 hours of daylight. Solstices and equinoxes mark important stages in the Earth’s astronomical cycle. In a year there are two equinoxes (spring and autumn) and two solstices (summer and winter).
This year, the autumnal equinox will take place on September 23.
The dates of the equinoxes and solstices are not fixed due to the sun’s elliptical orbit. They are closest in January and furthest in July (aphelion).
The equinox marks the change of seasons, as the balance of light shifts to make longer days or nights. Whether that means snow storms or heat waves depends on the hemisphere.
It is also possible to see the sun rise and set directly in the east and west, while it does not appear in the center at other times of the year.