What a marvel that the "blue marble" is tilted on its axis, the phenomenon to which we owe the seasons. Planet Earth is approaching Vernal Equinox, a moment when neither pole will be tilted toward or away from the sun. The sun will shine equally on both sides of the equator. Vernal Equinox, and first day of spring, occurs Thursday the 20th at 12:57 p.m.

Various factors account for the fact that equal day and night will occur on Monday: sunrise at 7:02 a.m., sunset 7:02 p.m. Day and night are nearly equal now and through next week. Pause to mark the due east position of the sun on the horizon at sunrise and due west position at sunset. The sun will then cross the equator from south to north ushering in longer nights than days.

In response to the return of the sun to the northern hemisphere, maple trees are yielding their sap, the first harvest of the season in the northeast. Handy for sap gatherers and syrup makers, a large gibbous moon, extra bright where there's snow, is lighting the night. On Sunday, Full Sap Moon rises in the east at 7:17, shortly after 7 o'clock sunset.

On Tuesday, bright, tawny Mars and dimmer, blue Spica rise practically side by side in the east-southeast just after 9 p.m., preceding moonrise at 9:21 p.m. By 10:30-11 the winsome threesome should be high enough to be visible from most locations.

To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org


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