The Buzz

Spring is creeping in, and with it later sunsets

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Signs of spring have already started creeping in — red-winged blackbirds have returned, turtles are basking on warm, sunny days, green sprouts are starting to spring up from the forest floor — but we will make it official in March, with meteorological spring beginning March 1 and astronomical spring following a few weeks behind.

Astronomical spring begins at the moment of the spring equinox, which this year will be at 4:24 p.m. March 20. The equinox is the exact moment when Earth's equator passes through the sun's centerpoint, according to NASA. We experience two equinoxes a year: the spring equinox, also called the vernal equinox, each March and the autumnal equinox every September.

Equinox means "equal night," and while spring and fall begin with an equinox, winter and summer start with a solstice. A solstice occurs when Earth reaches its highest (in the summer) or lowest (in the winter) point in the sky at noon, according to the National Weather Service. This is why we experience the most daylight on the day of the summer solstice and the least daylight on the day of the winter solstice.

Remember, though, that when you experience the seasons depends on what hemisphere you live in. When it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is winter in the southern hemisphere and vice versa.

Both equinoxes and solstices are related to Earth's tilt and its relationship with the sun, which affects the amount of daylight we receive each day, NASA reports. In the spring, days are getting longer, with earlier sunrises and later sunsets, leading up to the day with the most amount of sunlight — the summer solstice. In the fall, the opposite is true. The sun rises later and the sun sets earlier, leading up to the day with the least amount of sunlight — the winter solstice.

Of course, we get a little assist in the daylight department each spring because of daylight saving time, when we move the clocks ahead an hour at precisely 2 a.m. March 12. We may get a little less sleep that night as a result, but we also get an extra hour of daylight.

The first observance of a daylight saving time was in 1916 in Germany during World War I, when resources were limited and the German government decided it was necessary to maximize what could be done during daylight hours, National Geographic reports. The United States adopted the daylight-saving scheme in 1918.

Today, daylight saving time is somewhat controversial and the subject of legislation at the state and federal level to abolish the practice, Reuters reports. And not all U.S. states and territories observe daylight saving time. Hawaii and most of Arizona do not, nor do American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

In March, Will County will gain almost two and a half hours of daylight between March 1 and 31. To start the month, the sun will rise at 6:27 a.m. and set at 5:42 p.m. By March 31, the sun rises at 6:37 a.m. and sets at 7:16 p.m. 

At the beginning of the month, our two brightest planets, Jupiter and Venus, will rendezvous, appearing to almost touch in the sky on the night of March 1. Take a look just after sunset to see these two planets pass within a half a degree of one another, according to National Geographic.

The March full moon will occur at precisely 6:40 a.m. March 7, and it will appear full in the night sky on both March 6 and 7. The March full moon is known as the worm moon. This nickname was originally thought to be because earthworms would make their way up to the soil's upper level, attracting birds for a meal. While this explanation is logical given the time of year, some tribes of Native peoples actually called the March full moon the worm moon because of the worm-like beetle larvae that typically begin to emerge from bark, leaf litter and other vegetation at this time, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac

The March full moon actually has many different nicknames used by different Native groups. Worm moon is the name used by the Dakota and some other Native groups, while the Ojibwe called it the sugar moon, referencing when sap begins to flow from sugar maple trees, The Old Farmer's Almanac reports. Other names used for the March full moon include the eagle moon, goose moon, wind strong moon and sore eyes moon. 

In Christianity, if the March full moon occurs before the spring equinox, which it does this year, it is known as the Lenten moon, USA Today reports. When it occurs after the equinox, it is known as the paschal moon.

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