Friday was the Autumnal Equinox, one of two unique days, the other is the Vernal Equinox in March, where the Sun rises/sets exactly due East/West. In fact, in Latin, the word ‘equinox’ means ‘equal night.’ This day also presents a perfect opportunity to catch the Sun in one of its little known motions.
Everyone knows that the Sun moves throughout the day: rising, traversing the sky, and setting. This daily solar routine is obvious to all. However, what not everyone knows, or notices, is a much slower, yearly cycle the Sun takes along the horizon.
So why does this happen?
As seen from the Earth, the Equinoxes are the two days of the year where the Sun crosses the celestial equator, an imaginary line that divides the sky into North and South in the same way out equator does here on Earth. Because, on the equinoxes, the Sun is on the celestial equator, which is exactly between North and South, the same is true here on Earth. That is why the Sun is exactly due East/West on the equinoxes alone, and on every other day, is in either of the celestial hemispheres.
This is where the photo opportunity comes in.
Throughout the year, the Sun’s deviance from due East/West varies depending on where you live, the more Northern your location, the greater the variance in the Sun’s movement. At mid Northern latitudes (Cleveland is 41 degrees North), the Sun will vary about 30 degrees from its position on the on the equinoxes by the time the solstices (first days of summer and winter where the Sun is at its most extreme) come around.
Year long photo shoot anyone?
Tonight, go out and take a picture of the Sun at its set (or rise if that’s easier for you). Try and time it to where the dimmed solar disc is seen starting to dip below the horizon. Note your exact spot, then come back on the solstices for more pictures to gain a complete picture of the Sun’s movements throughout the year. For anyone truly dedicated, go out at sunset/rise around the 20th of every month to get a month-by-month record of the Sun’s movements.
Go here to see my 3-shot composite.
Why the delay in this report? Simple: it’s been cloudy all week! Fortunately,the Cleveland weather forecast is looking good for today. For hour-by-hour cloud predictions, check out the Cleveland Clear Sky Clock. The good news: as of this writing, things are looking to be clear at dusk.
Yes, the Sun will not set exactly West this evening but, being only 2 days after the equinox, it is still close enough.
Get more from another Cleveland Photography Examiner:
Mark Madere, Neighborhood Photography Examiner
Hit the ‘subscribe’ button for automatic email updates when I write something new!
Why not check out my other columns?
National Space News Examiner
National Photography Examiner
Cleveland Astronomy Examiner
For more Cleveland photography news:
Cleveland National Air Show
Land or lose a job this Labor Day with pictures
Photozone tests Sigma 12-24 II
Road rage caught on camera
Hollywood set to return to Cleveland
Cleveland Browns Stadium is photo friendly
Want more? Check out my personal website:
Bodzash Photography and Astronomy