Friday, June 03, 2016

Time Travel

As all of you know, the seasons are generally delineated by the relation of the sun to equator. When the sun is crossing the equator headed north in March, we call this the Vernal Equinox and it marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern. Correspondingly, as the sun later crosses the equator headed south in September, we have the Autumnal Equinox.

The word equinox come from the latin for equal night. In March equal night happens, depending on the year, on March 20 or 21 and in September it is on the 22nd or 23rd.

When the sun reaches its northernmost excursion, we have the Summer Solstice on June 20 or 21 marking the beginning of summer in the north and winter in the south. Similarly, northern winter and souther summer begins when the sun is at the southern extreme, the Winter Solstice on December 21 or 22. The word solstice is from the latin for sun stands still.

Easy peasy, right? Just what we all were taught in grade school. Well, it seems not everyone views the seasons this way. In Australia, all the dates are moved back to the beginning of the respective months. Thus, spring there begins on September 1, Summer on December 1, Fall on March 1 and Winter on June1.

Here I've been trained to see the start of a season as being tied to this astronomical stuff and not open to discussion. Now I realize that a season begins when you say it does and is just as manmade as daylight savings time, peak commute times, prime time for television, and business hours. Learn something every day!

We tie our season shifts to astronomy, the Australians connect theirs to the weather. Now is the beginning of 'summer weather' so now is the beginning of summer. Simple as that.

Besides, who can ever keep track of what day the equinox or solstice really happens on? Clearly the Aussies are on to something.