20 March 2020 17:21
<img class="styles__noscript__2rw2y" src="-x.co/util/image/w/in-nasa_1_3.jpg?v=at&w=485&h=273" srcset="-x.co/util/image/w/in-nasa_1_3.jpg?v=at&w=485&h=273 400w, -x.co/util/image/w/in-nasa_1_3.jpg?v=ap&w=980&h=551 800w"> Spring Equinox (Robert Simmon/EUMETSAT/NASA) Gripped by the COVID-19 fear, as humanity comes to a halt, planet Earth continues to perform its task—plants bloom, seasons change, and nature continues to thrive. On March 19 and March 20, the planet experienced the shift of seasons with the Vernal or Spring Equinox. The word equinox has its roots in Old French and Latin, which means equal night. It is the time of the year when both hemispheres of Earth get the same daylight duration of 12 hours each. Moreover, the summer equinox marks the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere, and autumn in the southern parts of the Earth.
The 2020's equinox is even more special, as it occurs at its earliest in the last 124 years—today, March 20, at 9:19 am Indian time. For Indians, the spring equinox holds immense cultural significance. From Holi to Ugadi to Gudi Padwa, several festivals are roughly aligned with the season change marked by this day. Earth takes about 365.24 days to complete one revolution around the Sun, and each year, the occurrence of the equinox shifts to six hours later. On leap years, however, the equinox marks its arrival a day ahead. All the weather phenomena on the planet, like season change and daylight hours, depend on the rotation of Earth on its tilted axis—the Earth is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees. Due to this tilt, as the planet rotates while revolving around the Sun, various places around the globe receive different amounts of sunlight. This continuously changes the lengths of days and nights around the world, while changing seasons throughout the year. Equinox occurs when the Sun is directly in the line to the Earth's equator, and this alignment gives an equal proportion of light to both the hemispheres. Thus, both the hemispheres experience an equal amount of daylight. People who live close to the equator can actually experience the passing of the Sun directly overhead on this day. From here, the Earth will witness another shift of seasons, with the arrival of the next equinox due on September 22, 2020. As humanity tries to distance itself from the global pandemic of novel coronavirus, hopes are ripe that the change in season would bring some respite. Only time will tell if the seasonal change will have any impact on the rampant spread of the pandemic.