Spring came this morning, and I checked the sunset last night to see the big orange ball approaching equinox—that’s when the sun appears to center on the Earth’s equator, so the lengths of the day and of the night are roughly equal. What I look for is the sun rising due east on the horizon and setting due west on the horizon. Last night I bicycled onto the Lake Street Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River, elevated so that I could see miles down Lake Street, which runs East to West across Minneapolis. If the sun sets right on Lake Street, then we have equinox.
Is this what they did at Stonehenge? Watch the sun hit a precise point at a certain time across a set formation, or wait for its rays to strike a light on a certain mark on the wall. Luckily, I have science to inform me on how these things work, and I don’t have to guess or estimate how it happens each year.
Realizing it was going to be Spring today, and with it being sunny outside last night, I hopped on my bike as the sun dropped low in the sky to go see the sunset hit my mark. You see I’m just not much of a morning person, so night time is the right time for me. Good enough!
What matters most is the ritual. I may not always make it, and it may sometimes be cloudy, but spring or fall it’s pretty much the same. Let’s hop on that bike, and let’s go see the sun hit Lake Street. It doesn’t matter if I make it or not, though it’s still a duty of sorts—someone has to watch these things and not only scientists. Do others around this world of billions of people go to some special place to watch this biannual event at sunrise or sunset on the equinox?
I sure hope so. We can never forget that humans need to observe how we interact with the world around us, with the sun, planets and the stars, and with the cosmos from which we emerged and that we go back into to glean some wisdom about it all. I’m not a religious person, so maybe it’s even more important to find that connection, stopping normal life, waiting and watching for a sign.
On August 21st this year a total solar eclipse will be viewable on a narrow path across the United States. If you want to be able to look straight up into the sky throwing off your dark glasses and see the corona glowing around the shadow of the moon as the stars and planets pop out in the deep blue of the midday sky, you’ll have to find a special place to do that.
Somewhere, I’ll be there.