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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Equatorial equinox

Those living in temperate regions would notice the importance of equinoxes and solstices. Equinoxes mark the beginning of spring and autumn, while solstices mark the start of summer and winter. In Europe many centuries ago, the equinox events were often celebrated as part of pagan rituals. In some countries today, Japan for example, today is designated as a national holiday, as the first day of spring is the day to visit family graves and hold family reunions. This day is known in Japan as "Shunbun no hi".

Those in the equatorial region would probably not notice the significance of these phenomena. I would not be surprised if most of us are even unaware of the significant difference in the skies during the equinox phenomenon.

In any case, today (20th. March) is the vernal (spring) equinox or typically known today as simply the March equinox (to avoid any hemispherical bias). Though it will not mark the beginning of spring for Malaysia (since Malaysia does not have four seasons), this date is still significant for those who are observant enough to notice that the sky was already bright shortly after Subuh started today (at 6:02 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur), and that the sky will still be bright even after Maghrib today (at 7:26 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur).

Astronomy enthusiasts will be able to explain this better. I will try to explain this in simple terms. Essentially the phenomenon called equinox is when the sun is directly on the equator, resulting in the "earlier" sunrise and "delayed" sunset. This does not mean that the sun rises early and sets later, rather the sun rays are seen and dispersed in the horizon way before the actual sunrise and remains to be visible even after the actual sunset. Therefore, there is no change to the prayer times.

As such, do not panic. This is actually a common occurrence every year, and is simply an astronomical and physical phenomenon that the earth encounters.

For more reading: Fenomena Ekuinoks 20 Mac 2012.

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