This Saturday (September 23rd) is the September equinox — we call it the autumnal or fall equinox in the northern hemisphere, but in the southern hemisphere it’s the vernal or spring equinox. The autumnal equinox is (in astronomical terms) the first day of fall, just as the vernal equinox is (in astronomical terms) the first day of spring.
❡ Little lessons to speak aloud: “Oooh, vernal and autumnal are beautiful words. Let’s look them both up in our big dictionary.”
Whenever you’re investigating things temporal or calendrical, timeanddate.com is always a good place to start:
The seasons occur because the earth’s axis of daily rotation is not quite perpendicular to the plane of the earth’s annual orbit around the sun (it’s tilted by about 23º). The two solstices occur at the points in the orbit when the north pole of the axis of rotation is tilted most directly away from the sun (in December, on the first day of northern-hemisphere winter) and most directly toward the sun (in June, on the first day of northern-hemisphere summer). The two equinoxes, in September and March, occur when the earth’s axis of rotation is “sideways” to the sun (so to speak), making the intervals of daylight and darkness equal (or very nearly so). The word equi-nox means “equal night” (and day).
NASA has a fun educational crossword puzzle for kids that’s filled with seasonal vocabulary — solstices, equinoxes, and more.
What calendrical events and astronomical alignments will you and your students be marking in your homeschool this Cygnus Term? 😊
❡ Watchers of the skies: Teaching your students about the seasons and the stars is one of the simplest and most enduring gifts you can give them. Your recommended River Houses astronomy guide has descriptions and maps of all the constellations that point out the seasonal highlights, and the astronomical section of your recommended world atlas has beautiful large charts of both celestial hemispheres. Why not find a dark-sky spot near you this month and spend some quality homeschool time beneath the starry vault. 🔭
❡ Here, said the year: This is one of our regular posts on Homeschool Astronomy and on the Homeschool Year. Add your name to our free weekly mailing list to get great homeschool teaching tips delivered right to your mailbox, fall, winter, spring, and summer. 🍂 ⛄️ 🌷 ⛱
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