Origin of vernal equinox
- the time when the sun crosses the plane of the earth's equator, making night and day of approximately equal length all over the earth and occurring about March 21 (vernal equinox or spring equinox) and September 22 (autumnal equinox).
- either of the equinoctial points.
Origin of equinox
- the time at which the sun crosses the plane of the equator towards the relevant hemisphere, making day and night of equal length. It occurs about March 21 in the N hemisphere (Sept 23 in the S hemisphere)
- astronomythe point, lying in the constellation Pisces, at which the sun's ecliptic intersects the celestial equator
- the time at which this occurs as the sun travels south to north (March 21)
Word Origin and History for vernal equinox
late 14c., from Old French equinoce (12c.) or directly from Medieval Latin equinoxium "equality of night (and day)," from Latin aequinoctium "the equinoxes," from aequus "equal" (see equal (adj.)) + nox (genitive noctis) "night" (see night). The Old English translation was efnniht. Related: Equinoctial.
- Either of the two points on the celestial sphere where the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun) crosses the celestial equator.♦ The point at which the Sun's path crosses the celestial equator moving from south to north is called the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox marks the zero point in both the equatorial and ecliptic coordinate systems; horizontal angular distances (right ascension in the equatorial system and celestial longitude in the ecliptic system) are measured eastward from this point. The vernal equinox is also known as the first point of Aries because when first devised some 2,000 years ago this point occurred at the beginning of Aries in the zodiac. Because of the westward precession of the equinoxes, the vernal equinox is now located at the beginning of Pisces.♦ The point at which the Sun's path crosses the celestial equator moving from north to south is called the autumnal equinox.
- Either of the two corresponding moments of the year when the Sun is directly above the Earth's equator. The vernal equinox occurs on March 20 or 21 and the autumnal equinox on September 22 or 23, marking the beginning of spring and autumn, respectively, in the Northern Hemisphere (and the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere). The days on which an equinox falls have about equal periods of sunlight and darkness. Compare solstice.
- See under equinox.