Vernal Equinox 2020

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The sun as it crosses the Celestial Equator at 11:49 PM, EDT on March 19, 2020. Note the other Solar System objects along the Ecliptic such a the waning crescent moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Image via Stellarium.

This year’s Vernal Equinox occurred on Thursday, March 19 amid beautiful evening and morning skies. The sun, as it appears to move along the Ecliptic, crossed the Celestial Equator at 11:49 PM EDT on the 19th. Of note, this will be the earliest spring in over 100 years. According to the Farmers Almanac

For much of the last century, the spring equinox has occurred on March 20 or 21. This year, however, the equinox happens on the 19th in all U.S. time zones, making it the earliest spring we’ll have seen in our lives (so far). The last time spring arrived this early was in 1896—a whopping 124 years ago!

On this date, as it is on every Vernal Equinox, there are 12 equal hours of daylight and darkness with the sun, apparently moving along the Ecliptic towards its highest point above the Southern Horizon in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice.

On the occasion of this year’s Vernal Equinox, the evening sky and the early dawn sky following provide stunning vistas, worthy of a poem

The twilight sky of March 19, 2020 with Orion, Canis Major and the winter sky waning towards the west. Brilliant Venus is well placed high in the west following sunset

With Sagittarius and Scorpius rising in the Pre-Dawn hours, the sky is breathtaking this month with Mars and Jupiter in conjunction and Saturn nestled just to the east, all set against the Milky Way’s Galactic Center, making for a stunning vista in binoculars or a wide-field telescope. It should also be noted that these three planets will reach “Opposition” this year, a planetary configuration where the Earth passes between the planet and the Sun and, thus, the planet(s) will shine extra-bright.

The pre-dawn sky only 5 hours following the passage of the sun as it crossed the Celestial Equator at this year’s Vernal Equinox. Note the close gathering of Mars and Jupiter (Conjunction) with Saturn to the east.

All images via Stellarium

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