Everything you need to know: Vernal or spring equinox 2012

via Earthsky.org:

The March equinox signals the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. It marks that special moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from south to north. In 2012, this equinox comes early. It’ll be on March 20 at 5:14 UTC, or 12:14 a.m. Central Daylight Time for us in the central U.S.

Why is the equinox early in 2012? The reason is, in part, because 2012 is a leap year. If this year weren’t a leap year, this equinox would come on March 21—not March 20—at 5:14 Universal Time. The equinoxes for the coming three years—2013, 2014, 2015—will all fall on March 20 as well. But—with each passing year—each equinox will come nearly 6 hours later by the clock. In the year 2016, the equinox would fall on March 21—if 2016 weren’t a leap year.

 

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