(CNN) — Few of us will ever have a way with words as Emily Dickinson, the Belle of Amherst, did:
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here
A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels …
But we all can see the special light, hear the birds, smell the flowers and feel the growing warmth of the sun on our skin just as she did.
They’re all signs that the spring equinox of 2022 is arriving. This first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere is a sign of rebirth and a time of tradition. It’s a harmonious balance between day and night — and a ray of hope in world that could really use some right now.
While Dickinson was more about the emotion than the science, let’s start off with a little scientific precision to explore the equinox.
Precisely when will the spring equinox happen?
Hungary’s oldest bridge is the Chain Bridge over the Danube River in Budapest. Spring equinox means winter’s low lights and chilling cold are giving way to longer and warmer days.
ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images
Some folks like things scheduled down to the minute.
The spring equinox will arrive exactly at 15:33 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) March 20. Here’s how that breaks down at various points around the world (all times adjusted for Daylight Saving Time):
• Honolulu (Hawaii): 5:33 a.m.
• San Diego (California) and Vancouver (Canada): 8:33 a.m.
• Denver (Colorado) and Mexico City (Mexico): 9:33 a.m.
• Chicago (Illinois) and Kingston (Jamaica): 10:33 a.m.
• Quebec City (Canada) and Savannah (Georgia): 11:33 a.m.
• Halifax (Canada): 12:33 p.m.
Crossing over the Atlantic, here are some more places:
• Dublin (Ireland) and Accra (Ghana): 3:33 p.m.
• Budapest (Hungary): 4:33 p.m
• Tallinn (Estonia) and Cairo (Egypt): 5:33 p.m.
• Istanbul (Turkey): 6:33 p.m.
• Dubai (United Arab Emirates): 7:33 p.m.
• Bangkok (Thailand): 10:33 p.m.
• Singapore: 11:33 p.m.
For residents of Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan, the equinox actually happens on their Monday at 12:33 a.m.
For some, fall is in the air
In Sydney, Australia, and other points south of the equator, this equinox marks the official arrival of autumn.
Folks in the Northern Hemisphere are looking forward to longer days, warmer weather, flowers and a burst of greenery. But for people living south of the equator, this equinox means they are are heading into fall.
So for Argentinians, South Africans and Australians, among others, this is a time to look forward to cooler weather and the joys of autumn.
For people who reside near the equator (in places such as Quito, Ecuador, or Singapore), none of this is really a big deal. They get roughly 12 hours of daylight and nighttime year round.
Spring equinox has another name
If you ever hear anyone say “vernal equinox,” it means the same thing.
The term equinox comes from the Latin word “equinoxium,” meaning “equality between day and night.” And vernal also comes from Latin and means “spring.”
Why does spring equinox happen?
Lovely cherry blossoms could be found in Ueno Park in Tokyo just a few days after spring equinox 2020.
Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images
The Earth rotates along an imaginary line that runs from North Pole to South Pole. It’s called the axis, and this rotation is what gives us day and night.
The effect is at its maximum in late June and late December. Those are the solstices, and they have the most extreme differences between day and night, especially near the poles. (That’s why it stays dark for so long each day during the winter in places such as Scandinavia and Alaska.)
But since the winter solstice three months ago in December, you’ve noticed that our days have been getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere and the nights shorter. And now here we are at the spring equinox! Going forward, the Northern Hemisphere will be more exposed to the sun than the Southern Hemisphere. That’s why it gets increasingly hot as we head toward the summer solstice in June.
The equinoxes aren’t exactly ‘equal’
Daffodils, an early arrival in the flower world, bloom in the Arboretum in Nottingham, England.
James Warwick/EMPICS Entertainment/PA Images/Reuters
It turns out you actually get a little more daylight than darkness on the equinox — and how much so depends where you are on the planet.
This bending of light rays “causes the sun to appear above the horizon when the actual position of the sun is below the horizon.” The day is a bit longer at higher latitudes than at the equator because it takes the sun longer to rise and set the closer you get to the poles.
You can use the sunrise and the sunset (pictured above) on the equinoxes to orient yourself to due east and due west.
Zsanett Mezei from Pixabay
EarthSky says the equinox is “a good day for finding east and west from your yard or other favorite site for watching the sky. Just go outside around sunset or sunrise and notice the location of the sun on the horizon with respect to familiar landmarks.”
The sun sets more slowly during solstices when the Earth’s tilt is most extreme. And the effect is more dramatic the farther you get from the equator. That’s why the sun never sets at all in the Arctic Circle during the time around the summer solstice.
Special sites and modern celebrations
Oh, the pre-pandemic times! Revelers dance and play music during celebrations marking the spring equinox at Stonehenge in 2015.
Rufus Cox/Getty Images
And it’s not just ancient sites that traditionally get in on the action.
People holding lit torches walk up a mountain during celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the town of Akra in Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdish region in March 2021.
Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images
Cultures around the world celebrate the equinox. Here are a few:
Nowruz is the Persian New Year. Also known as Nauryz, Navruz or Nowrouz, it means “new day.”
It’s no coincidence it falls on the first day of spring. The Iranian calendar is a solar calendar, meaning time is determined, through astronomical observations, by Earth’s movement around the sun. So, the first day of the year always kicks off with the vernal equinox.
It’s a celebration of new beginnings: wishing prosperity and welcoming the future while shedding away the past. That’s why families use this time to deep clean their homes and closets and buy fresh clothing.
Top image: A superbloom of wildflowers blankets the hills of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California, in March 2019. (Matt Patterson via AP)