What is Autumnal Equinox

Autumnal or Fall Equinox is a day when the tilt of the earth’s axis causes the sun to shine directly above the equator. It usually occurs around September 23 and signals autumn’s arrival in the Northern Hemisphere.

Equinox is derived from the Latin words “Equus,” meaning “equal,” and “nox,” meaning “night.” It originates from the Latin word “autumn,” which means “falling.”

Autumnal or Fall Equinox

During the Fall Equinox, the changes in the seasons begin, and it occurs on September 23 every year. The equinox marks the time of year when sunrise and sunset fall due east and west, respectively. 

In astronomy, an equinox occurs when there is no tilt between the earth’s rotational axis and its orbit around the sun (which means it’s on a straight line). It is when plants begin to die off for winter, which can cause some to feel sad or depressed.

This happens twice a year during an equinox, once near March 21 (vernal) and once near September 22 (autumnal).

Various cultures, including Hindus and Christians, celebrate this date as the first day of fall. It’s also known as the ‘First Day of Autumn’ or ‘Mabon.’

Autumnal Equinox Date and Time 2023

As the autumnal equinox occurs, fall begins in the Northern Hemisphere, while spring begins in the Southern Hemisphere. During the month of September, the equinox will occur at 06:50 Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) on September 23, 2023.

Each year, the time of the equinox is shifted by 5 hours and 48 minutes since the earth’s orbit around the sun takes roughly 365.24 days. 

Autumn Equinox Celebrations in Different Cultures

For thousands of years, people have celebrated the fall equinox.. Some cultures have specific traditions for this time of year; others have simple rituals that anyone can do to honor nature’s bounty.

This day is devoted to visiting shrines and temples, paying respect to ancestors’ graves, and reconnecting with family. Additionally, people enjoy the good weather and autumn harvest by enjoying outdoor activities and eating. 

Many cultures developed rituals to honor the changing seasons and their impact on humanity. For example, some Native American tribes would set fires on this day to symbolically purify themselves and their communities. Others would offer food or incense as an offering to Earth before planting crops for the coming year.

While these traditions may have faded in modern times, there are still plenty of ways you can celebrate the fall equinox this year.

Prepare for the Northern Lights

As the September equinox approaches, those living at high Northern Hemisphere latitudes are more likely to witness the aurora borealis display. According to NASA, Northern Lights are most prevalent around the equinoxes.

Harvest Moon and autumn equinox

The Northern Hemisphere autumn equinox will take place on September 23, 2022. Two days earlier, on September 21, is the full moon. Full moons closest to the autumn equinox are called Harvest Moons in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Depending on the year, harvest moons can occur a few weeks before or after the autumn equinox. Usually, it appears at the end of the summer season or the beginning of the fall season.

Harvest Moon always occurs in March or early April in the Southern Hemisphere. It last took place on March 18, 2022.

Due to the shorter time between moonrises, the Harvest Moon is an astronomically special event.

In a lunar month, every day, the moon rises about 30 minutes later – the period of time between full moons. For a few days during the Harvest Moon, the time difference between successive moonrises decreases by less than 30 minutes.

7 Fun Facts About Autumn Equinox 

Below are some facts associated with the autumn equinox.

1. Autumn Equinox- Start of the new year

From 1793 to 1805, the Autumn Equinox marked the start of the French Republican Calendar’s new year. During 1793-1805, the first day of the year was observed at the Paris Observatory when the autumnal equinox fell. Because one day before the equinox in 1792, the French monarchy was abolished.

2. The colors of autumn leaves 

Chlorophyll decrease as the Autumn Equinox approaches, and leaves become more dominated by flavonoids, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins can help protect tree cells from harmful UV rays and cold stress.

3. The Descent of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza 

The pyramid of Quetzalcoatl (or Kukulcan) symbolizes day and night at Chichen Itza on the spring and fall equinoxes. A feathered serpent joins the heavens, earth, and underworld, day and night, on every equinox.

The late afternoon sun creates the illusion that a snake is slowly creeping down the staircase. This astronomical spectacle attracts tourists worldwide to Chichen Itza each year. 

There is a carnival atmosphere all day, with rock bands competing against traditional music and folk dance troupes and New Agers dressed in robes. Visitors usually wear white clothes to eliminate “bad vibes” and attract positive energy.

4. Earth’s tilt causes the equinox and the seasons.

A tilt in the earth’s axis causes the seasons to occur. A tilted northern hemisphere gets more of the sun’s direct rays during summer, which results in warmer temperatures. 

When tilted away, it also experiences colder temperatures during the winter months. The equinoxes occur at the midway points between these two extremes when the sun is directly above the equator.

5. Autumn-born people live longer

A study at the University of Chicago (USA) found that fall-born babies live longer than those born in spring.

According to the study, 30 percent of Americans who became centenarians between 1880 and 1895 were born during the fall season. March, May, and July were the months with the lowest life expectancy.

6. During the fall, we sneeze a lot

As per the National Institutes of Health, the fall season is a prime time for seasonal allergies. As rotten leaves and dying vegetation decomposes, airborne mold counts rise. A dry indoor environment can also worsen smells by irritating the nose’s lining.

7. As autumn approaches, Birds also react

By collecting seeds from trees and hiding them in soil and trees, the black-faced saithe becomes an ace. The hippocampus swells 30% because a new nerve cell appears in the little bird’s hippocampus, which is responsible for spatial organization and memory.


When does the Autumnal Equinox occur in 2023?

The Autumnal Equinox will occur at 06:50 Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) on September 23, 2023.

What is the Harvest Moon?

It is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. It usually appears at the end of the summer season or the beginning of the fall season.

How does the Earth’s tilt cause the equinox and the seasons?

The Earth’s tilt causes the seasons by providing the Northern Hemisphere with more direct sunlight during summer and less during winter. The equinoxes occur when the sun is directly above the equator, at the midway points between these two extremes.

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