Spring Equinox Monday Has Trippy Astronomy for Oregon, the Coast
Published 03/17/2017 at 4:03 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff
(Oregon Coast) – Spring will swoop down into Oregon and the coast on Monday, March 20, with the season officially starting at 3:29 a.m. that morning. It is technically known as the vernal equinox: the day when both the north and south poles of the Earth are at equal distance towards the sun – which is 92.6 million miles away.
Jim Todd, astronomy expert with Portland's OMSI, said at that moment the sun will be directly over the Earth's equator.
“We will then be halfway towards summer, with the winter days soon behind us for another year,” Todd said. “The first day of spring, or the 'vernal' equinox, gets its term from vernal meaning 'green', and equinox meaning 'equal night', which simply means that on this equinox which edges us into the warmer months, the hours of daylight are equal to the hours of night.”
It's interesting to note the sunrise and sunset differences between the Oregon coast and inland, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. On March 20, sunrise for both Cannon Beach and Newport (100 or so miles apart) is listed at 7:16 a.m. Sunset for both towns is at 7:29 p.m.
In Portland, sunrise is at 7:10 a.m. - six minutes earlier than the coast. Sunset inland is at 7:24 p.m., about five minutes earlier than the beaches.
Head even farther south to Coos Bay and sunset and sunrise are one minute later than Newport and Cannon Beach.
Todd let on a few other fun facts about the equinox in Oregon. In Portland, for example, the noon sun attains its absolute mid-point in the sky at 1:18 p.m., where it will be 45 degrees from the southern horizon.
“On the first day of spring, the sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west,” Todd said.
Each day after that it rises just a little bit farther north until the summer solstice on June 20. It will set in the same place for a few days after that.
On March 20, day and night will be equal length over just about all of the Earth, except at the poles. That's when some trippy refraction takes place: where the curvature of the Earth's atmosphere actually bends the sun's rays. This will make the sun visible there through the night, even during those 12 hours the sun is below the horizon. Where to stay for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour
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