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Here Comes Spring: Quick Facts About the Vernal Equinox

The vernal equinox arrives at 5:28 am on March 20. For us in the northern hemisphere, that means winter is officially over and spring begins.

Here are a few spring facts:

You can set your compass by it: The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west.

You can set Easter by it: It was decided by the Council of Nicea in 325 that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. But Easter is pushed back a week if the full moon falls on a Sunday so that it doesn’t coincide with Passover.

Equal but separate: Equinox is Latin for “equal night,” meaning an equal amount of day and night. Vernal is Latin for spring.

Not my spring: Meteorologists prefer precise calendar demarcation of the seasons, so “meteorological” spring begins on March 1 and ends on May 31.

The old egg gag: No, the vernal equinox is not the only time that you can stand an egg on its end. Try it any time.

But this one works: You will need a straight stick or long wooden ruler, a protractor and a compass. Find an empty space where there is little obstruction from the sun. Subtract your latitude (Door County is 45) from 90 to find the angle to set your stick in the ground. Find south on your compass and point the stick in that direction and at the proper angle. At noon on the first day of spring, the stick’s shadow will disappear.

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