Autumn Equinox 2021: What and when is it?

·2-min read
Autumn in London ( Jordan Brierley / Unsplash)
Autumn in London ( Jordan Brierley / Unsplash)

The Autumn Equinox is right around the corner, bringing shorter days and cooler nights.

London may have enjoyed recent sunny weather but the summer season is officially coming to an end.

Britons will soon have the urge to pull out their cosy jumpers from the wardrobe, enjoying cosy nights on the sofa with a warm bowl of soup.

But when is the autumn equinox this year and what does it mean?

What is the autumn equinox?

The four seasons are defined by the months of the year for many people under the meteorological system which is calculated using annual temperature cycles.

This says that autumn starts on September 1 for all countries north of the equator while winter begins on December 1.

However in astronomical terms, the seasons are broken up into solstices and equinoxes based on the position of earth in relation to the sun.

An acrobat performs as she hangs under a heliosphere during the start of the Earth Spectacular celebration parade in Wakefield (PA)
An acrobat performs as she hangs under a heliosphere during the start of the Earth Spectacular celebration parade in Wakefield (PA)

The Earth is tilted on its axis, allowing the sun to illuminate the northern or southern hemisphere more depending on where the planet is along its orbit.

At two points in the year, the sun will brighten up both hemispheres equally and these are known as the equinoxes.

The name comes from the Latin aequus, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night.

When is the autumn equinox 2021?

The northern hemisphere welcomes autumn during the September equinox.

This year, the autumn equinox takes place on September 22 at 8.21pm BST.

The event happens twice each year, with the spring equinox in March. It falls at a slightly different time every year and its position is dictated by the Earth’s orbit.

Celebrating the autumn equinox

People have been commemorating the autumn equinox for centuries. Ancient peoples such as the Druids in England and the Maya in Central America see it as a marker of the harvest season.

Pentacle Drummers play in front of a burning ceremonial Viking long boat at Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire, to mark the autumn equinox (PA)
Pentacle Drummers play in front of a burning ceremonial Viking long boat at Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire, to mark the autumn equinox (PA)

During the autumn equinox, neo-druids gather at Stonehenge to perform rituals.

In Mexico, crowds flock to the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula.

A serpent-headed statue is placed at the foot of the pyramid and as the sun sets, the sunlight and the shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.

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