The Autumnal Equinox

By Dan Brown, NJSOC AmeriCorps Member

Fall is a season that brings color to life in the outdoors. With the changing of the leaves from green to many colors, it creates a beautiful atmosphere for those who like to take hikes, enjoy the outdoors, or use cameras. There are two equinoxes that happen every year: the Vernal Equinox and the Autumnal Equinox. The Vernal Equinox is the first day of spring and the Autumnal Equinox is the first day of fall. This year the Autumnal Equinox will be on September 23rd. The Autumnal Equinox has always been an important fixture to the human race. Many different cultures viewed the Autumnal Equinox as a holiday.

The word equinox comes from two Latin words: aequus and nox. Aequusmeans equal and nox means night. There are two days during the entire year when the amount of day time and the amount of night time are the same; these days being the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox. The equinoxes are caused by the earth’s tilt on its axis and rotation around the sun. When the equinoxes occur the earth’s axis is inclined neither toward nor away from the sun causing the equal amount of day and night.

The fall season allows an explosion of vivid colors to brighten up the outdoors. The changing of the leaves can be as vivid as a painting. It makes the outdoors very enjoyable for anyone including the outdoorsman or person going for the occasional stroll to enjoy the beautiful weather. For those who are photographers, pictures of fall foliage can be quite the commodity because of the beautiful colors that are available. Fall allows someone like myself, who is not artistic, to appreciate beauty and art. It allows me to feel artistic by taking my camera with me when working at the New Jersey School of Conservation by being able to take pictures of the beauty I admire during the fall season.

In many cultures, the Autumnal Equinox represents a major time for a harvest and celebration. This harvest is used to prepare to store food for the winter months. In many Eastern cultures the Autumnal Equinox is an official holiday and in Europe it is viewed as an important harvest time. During the Autumnal Equinox canning of foods takes place in preparation for the winter months. This was when farmers would slaughter animals and preserve meat for the coming months as well.

Migration and changes in plants happen because of the Autumnal Equinox. Interestingly enough, the day of the Autumnal Equinox is when most birds begin to fly south for the winter. The change in the weather may cause the instinct in birds to kick in and fly south. Some plants require to be planted during the Autumnal Equinox. For instance, coriander must be planted during the Autumnal Equinox because it thrives in the weather that comes with autumn. Some plants are not able to handle the colder weather and less sunlight available. Their leaves stop producing chlorophyll and drop their leaves altogether.

In conclusion, fall is the most beautiful season containing vivid colors coming to life with the changing of the leaves. It allows bright oranges, yellows, browns, and reds to cover the sky and ground. It can cause changes in the plants and animals in the area. Some animals may not be seen during the fall and winter months because their internal clock tells them to migrate and head south for the winter. Some plants are able to thrive in the colder weather, whereas most plants start to die. The Autumnal Equinox plays an important role in our lives as well. Whether we are farmers preparing for winter by harvesting crops or a person who likes to go for an occasional stroll and enjoy the vivid colors, Autumn has something for everyone.