Robins are one of the most well-known early signs of spring. (Photo courtesy of Paul Dacko)
If every year you find yourself hoping for an early spring, 2020 is your year. That's because spring will officially begin March 19, instead of March 20 as it most often does.
This year, spring will officially begin at 10:50 p.m. March 19, meaning it is the first time in 124 years that the first day of spring will fall on this earlier date for all of the continental United States, according to AccuWeather. In 2016, spring started March 19 in the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones, but not the Eastern Time Zone.
The timing of the start of spring changes each year, falling on either March 19, March 20 or March 21. Years with the earliest vernal equinoxes — the moment spring officially starts — are leap years. Because Earth's full rotation doesn't take exactly 24 hours — it actually only takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds — we add one day to the annual calendar every four years in the form of leap day, AccuWeather reports.
This trend of earlier equinoxes in leap years will continue as we move forward, according to Forbes. So if you're looking for an even earlier start to our most-heralded season, you're in luck, as long as you can wait another four years. In 2024, spring will begin at 10:09 p.m. March 19. And mark your calendars for 2028, when spring will officially start at 9:16 p.m., a few minutes before it did in 1896, meaning spring 2028 will start earlier than it has since 1696, AccuWeather reports.
No matter what date it occurs on, the first day of spring is also known as the vernal equinox. The word equinox is rooted in Latin and roughly translates to equal night, and long ago people believed on the day of an equinox we experienced the same amount of daylight and dark hours, according to the Franklin Institute. With our more modern and precise timekeeping methods, we now know this isn't true.
The equinox occurs when Earth's equator passes through the sun's centerpoint. The same phenomenon also occurs on the first day of fall, September 22, which is called the autumnal equinox. The first day of summer and winter are called the summer and winter solstices. The summer solstice is the day of the year with the most daylight, while the winter solstice is the day of the year with the least amount of daylight.
You may have heard the myth about being able to stand an egg up on its end at the exact moment of the equinox, and you can certainly give it a try. Prepare to be disappointed, however. You might be able to stand an egg up on end at the moment spring officially begins, but it has nothing to do with the equinox, AccuWeather reports. Instead, you can sometimes stand an egg up on a rough surface, or if the bottom of the egg is rough or bumpy.
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