Spring comes early in 2020

Satellite image of Earth in 2014. The spring equinox will come to the United States at its earliest point in more than 100 years on Thursday. Photo by NASA

March 19 (UPI) — Spring is officially coming early this year, thanks to leap year and other solar quirks that will make the season’s arrival fall on March 19 for the first time throughout the U.S. since 1896.

The vernal, or spring, equinox will happen at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time, the exact time when Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward or away from the sun. The spring version of the equinox usually falls on March 20 or 21, allowing for 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness nearly everywhere on the planet.

According to NASA, the Earth makes one rotation every 23.9 hours and it takes 365.25 days to complete one trip around the sun. Leap year, when a day is added to February every fourth year, makes the math work between the calendar and seasons.

Partly because our days are just short of 24 hours, the spring equinox falls on March 19, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. It is the first time the spring equinox comes throughout the entire United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, since 1896.

In 2016, spring came on March 19 in the Central and Pacific time zones, but in the Eastern time zone, it fell on March 20.

Leap year is just one of the ways that the current calendar stays on target with the season with Earth’s uneven orbit around the sun. Every 100 years, with a few exceptions, the leap year is skipped to take into account the “overcorrection” leap year recreates for the yearly calendar.

Year 2000, though, was one of those exceptions where leap year was not skipped, thus meaning the spring equinox will fall on March 19 a few more times throughout the century.

“We say that this is the earliest equinox of our lives, but we’re going to keep saying that,” Bob Berman, an astronomer at robotic telescope service Slooh, said. “We’re going to be able to say that now every four years. So we’re going to keep having earliest-ever starts of spring.”


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