If it seems like spring arrived mighty early this year, it’s because it did. But that is just a meteorological phenomenon. On this particular year, spring will be arriving early in astronomical terms as well. Not just a little early; this is the earliest arrival of spring in over a hundred years. The last time spring came this soon in the year was in 1896, making it exactly 116 years coming. Now, with all craze on the Internet these days about objects standing on their ends, like brooms and eggs, we have watched thousands of people flood our site looking for answers. The theories are as wild and as numbered as the standing brooms, and have included such interesting concepts as planetary alignments, magnetic pole shifts, and equinoxes. While we are thoroughly sick of brooms, we do feel that with tomorrow’s unusually early vernal equinox coming into play, it is worth addressing this issue one more time.
First, let’s look at what a vernal equinox is. An equinox in general is when the sun comes to one of two intersections of its path across our sky and the equator of the Earth if it were projected on the sky. On these occasions, day and night are almost precisely equal in the twenty-four hour day, hence the term equinox. Myths and legends surrounding the equinoxes have been going on for centuries, and one of the most popular ones is the concept of being able to stand items up on their ends that one wouldn’t think you normally could. So, expect plenty of dramatic photos and stories to circulate the Internet over the next few days with people trying out this equinox phenomenon.
The equinox comes sooner this year is rather complicated. First of all, our definition of sooner is based on what day it falls on within our calendar year. Because it falls a day earlier in March, we think of it as coming sooner. However, our calendar works fine for day-to-day life, but in reality, it is not totally accurate when it comes to astronomical terms. Our year and seasons are not even numbers of days, and the Gregorian calendar was designed to be as close as possible but still be workable. The most common example of how our calendar is woefully inaccurate is the institution of leap year. Every fourth year, an extra day is added to the calendar on February to make up for the previous quarter-days that were lost in the mix. This helps keep our years on track with the Earth’s revolution around the sun and keeping our calendars relatively accurate for our Earthly business. Also, Earth’s tilt on its axis causes it to be pointing in different directions along the path of its orbit. This affects when the Earth reaches the equinox on its never-ending journey around the sun.
Now that you have a fundamental understanding of the vernal equinox we are about to experience and why it’s special, let’s talk about what is not special about it. While urban legends and folklore bring out the broom and egg
standers in force, the reality is that these feats can be performed at any time here on Earth. In reality, the science behind the standing brooms and other objects is just good old-fashioned physics at work. Any broom with decently strong bristles can be stood on its end once the center of gravity is located. And you don’t have to be a wizard to do it. It just takes a little patience and sense of balance on your own part. Many often report feeling a force tugging the broom this way or that. This is absolutely true. It’s called gravity. Just as a spinning top spins on the floor until it eventually teeters out, the broom is drawn to rest. Normally, this means flat on the floor, but with a little maneuvering, even the most equilibrium-challenged person can pull off this “supernatural” trick.
The equinox has no bearing on anything regarding the magnetic poles or gravity itself. Gravity is ever-present and constant in its application to the Earth. As the universe goes, the equinox is not really an event at all, but just a moment in time that we Earthlings use to commemorate the passing of the seasons. So, when the impending outbreak of broom sightings starts over the next few days, remember that the equinox is not to blame. You can perform these astonishing acts on any day of the week, year, or century.
But it does look cool, doesn’t it?