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Earth Sense: No mystique or magic accompanies equinox
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The fall equinox is occurring Monday at 10:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

To some, it means more than just the fact that we get 12 hours of daylight, and 12 hours of nighttime.

One myth that’s impossible to kill is that you can stand an egg upright. Sure you can. It works on any other day of the year, too, given enough patience.

But there are probably more productive things one can do. The Earth rotates at the same speed throughout the year, unaffected by the change of seasons. 

Another myth is that the sun’s gravity changes. I don’t know how that would work, but fortunately we see no evidence for that happening.

The length of daylight is controlled by how much of our hemisphere is exposed to sunlight. Until now, it has been tilted toward the sun, and we got more daylight than shadow (or nighttime).

Today and tomorrow, our pathway around the sun has us in the spot where the sun is to the “left” of the planet. So the left side is in the light, and the right side is dark, with equal proportions. 

A few years ago, a congressman promised to get us more daylight by extending Daylight Saving Time. The law was passed, DST extended further into the calendar, but the sun refused to cooperate with the will of the government and provide more light. DST only adjusts the clock to better fit our workday between sunrise and sunset.

Actually, most of us no longer get up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows and plow a few acres before breakfast, so the usefulness of changing all our digital clocks, clock radios and watches twice a year is debatable. Sure, some of them are self-adjusting. But that can make the confusion complete as we need to remember which ones are now correct, and which aren’t. 

From a scientific point of view, no mystique or magic accompanies the equinox. It’s simply the arrival of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and spring season for our neighbors in Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and other countries in the southern half of the world.

But after the dry, colorful fall season that’s typical for North Georgia, winter is coming. Right now is a good time to repair outdoor lighting, check the car tires, and fix that leaky roof in the toolshed.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.

 

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