Autumnal equinox 2022: Twilight and myths of the equinox and 6-month polar night

Autumnal equinox 2022: Twilight and myths of the equinox and 6-month polar night

Castlerigg Stone Circle bathed in golden light in the Lake District, Cumbria, United Kingdom.

Castlerigg Stone Circle bathed in golden light within the Lake District, Cumbria, United Kingdom.
(Image credit ranking: David Clapp/Getty Images)

When is the first day of tumble in 2022? 

A sparsely worded acknowledge is that on Thursday (Sept. 22) at 9: 04 p.m. EDT (0104 GMT on Sept. 23), autumn begins astronomically within the Northern Hemisphere, with spring kicking off within the Southern Hemisphere. At that moment, the sun may perchance well perchance be vivid straight away overhead as viewed from a level within the equatorial Pacific Ocean, 300 miles (500 km) west of Yaren, a district of the Pacific nation of Nauru.   

This date is is conception as an equinox, from the Latin for “equal night,” alluding to the reality that day and night are then of equal length worldwide. Nonetheless right here’s now not essentially so. 

Associated: Night sky, September 2022: What that you just can gape tonight [maps]

Now now not so equal equinox

The definition of the equinox as being a time of equal day and night is a handy oversimplification. For one ingredient, it treats night as merely the time the sun is beneath the horizon and entirely ignores twilight. If the sun have been nothing more than a level of sunshine within the sky, and if the Earth lacked an ambiance, then at the time of an equinox the sun would indeed notify one half of of its route above the horizon and one half of below. Nonetheless if reality be told, atmospheric refraction raises the sun’s disk by more than its possess apparent diameter whereas it’s far rising or atmosphere. Thus, after we gape the sun as a reddish-orange ball correct sitting on the horizon, we’re having a have a look at an optical phantasm. It is if reality be told entirely below the horizon.

As well to to refraction hastening ruin of day and delaying sundown, there is one other ingredient that makes daytime longer than night at an equinox: ruin of day and sundown are outlined as the times when the first or closing speck of the sun’s better limb is viewed above the horizon — now not the center of the disk.

And right here’s why must you check your newspaper’s almanac or weather web page on Wednesday (Sept. 21) and search for the times of local ruin of day and sundown, you will seek that the duration of daytime, or the volume of time from ruin of day to sundown, aloof lasts moderately more than 12 hours, and now not exactly 12 as the period of time “equinox” suggests.  

In St. Louis, Missouri, as an illustration, ruin of day is at 6: 48 a.m. local time with sundown coming at 6: 57 p.m. local time. So, the volume of daytime is now not 12 hours, but moderately 12 hours and 9 minutes. It goes to unbiased now not be till Sept. 25 that the day and night are if reality be told equal (ruin of day is at 6: 52 a.m., with sundown coming 12 hours later).

And at the North Pole, the sun currently is tracing out a 360-level circle round the entire sky, showing to wing correct above the edge of the horizon. In the within the period in-between of this three hundred and sixty five days’s autumnal equinox, it will probably perchance perchance unbiased aloof theoretically travel entirely from ogle. And yet its disk will aloof be hovering correct above the horizon. It be now not till 75 hours and 29 minutes later that the closing speck of the sun’s better limb will finally drop entirely out of seek.       

This solid refraction lift out moreover causes the sun’s disk to seem oval when it’s far cease to the horizon. The volume of refraction will enhance so all real now as the sun approaches the horizon, that its lower limb is lifted more than the upper, distorting the sun’s disk noticeably.

An illustration of the sky on Sept. 22, 2022 on the Autumnal Equinox.

An illustration of the sky on Sept. 22, 2022 on the Autumnal Equinox. (Image credit ranking: Starry Night Tool)

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Now now not as darkish as it appears

Constructive gargantuan myths die onerous. Such a is that the entire arctic situation experiences six months of daytime and 6 months of darkness.  

Incessantly, “night” is merely conception to be to be when the sun is beneath the horizon, as if twilight didn’t exist. This fallacy is repeated in innumerable geography textbooks, as effectively as scramble articles and guides. Nonetheless twilight illuminates the sky to some of degree whenever the sun’s better rim is now not up to 18 degrees below the horizon. This marks the restrict of gargantuan twilight, when the sky is indeed entirely darkish from horizon to horizon. 

There are two other forms of twilight. Civil (interesting) twilight exists when the sun is now not up to 6 degrees beneath the horizon. (Your closed fist held out at arm’s length covers 10 degrees of the sky.) It is loosely outlined as when most exterior daytime actions is also continued. Some day-to-day newspapers present a time if potentialities are you’ll perchance perchance unbiased aloof flip for your car’s headlights. That time usually corresponds to the end of civil twilight. 

So even at the North Pole, whereas the sun disappears from ogle for six months foundation on Sept. 25, to mumble that “total darkness” straight away sets in is continuously the case! Civil twilight doesn’t end there till Oct. 8.  

When the sun drops correct down to 12 degrees below the horizon, it marks the end of nautical twilight, when a sea horizon turns into delicate to discern. In fact, at the end of nautical twilight most of us will regard night as having begun. 

Auroras can be seen over a cabin in the Arctic during polar twilight.

Auroras is also viewed over a cabin within the Arctic. (Image credit ranking: Anton Petrus/Getty Images)

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At the North Pole now we have to support till Oct. 24 for nautical twilight to end in 2022. Lastly, gargantuan twilight — when the sky indeed turns into entirely darkish — ends on Nov. 13. It then stays perpetually darkish till Jan. 28 when the twilight cycles initiate anew. So, at the North Pole the duration of 24-hour darkness lasts nearly 11 weeks, now not six months.  

Joe Rao serves as an trainer and visitor lecturer at Contemporary York’s Hayden Planetarium (opens in contemporary tab). He writes about astronomy for Natural Historical past journal (opens in contemporary tab), the Farmers’ Almanac (opens in contemporary tab) and other publications. Note us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in contemporary tab) and on Facebook (opens in contemporary tab)

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Joe Rao is’s skywatching columnist, as effectively as a frail meteorologist and eclipse chaser who moreover serves as an trainer and visitor lecturer at Contemporary York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural Historical past journal, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Joe is an 8-time Emmy-nominated meteorologist who served the Putnam Valley situation of Contemporary York for over 21 years. You’re going to salvage him on Twitter and YouTube tracking lunar and movie voltaic eclipses, meteor showers and more. To salvage out Joe’s most up-to-date venture, consult with him on Twitter.