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First Day of Spring: NASA Captures the Vernal Equinox

Brian Kahn
Published: March 20, 2014

The spring equinox arrives on Thursday. That might have many people living in the eastern half of the country hoping that cold weather will finally exit the region. But in the meantime, at least enjoy the view of the equinox from space courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory.

The equinox is a function of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. On March 20, the tilt of the Earth in relation to Sun is zero. The same thing happens on September 20, which marks the fall equinox.

(MORE: Blinding Commute in These Towns | Science Behind the Vernal Equinox)

That doesn’t mean day and night are equal all across the planet, but it does make for some fantastic imagery. NASA’s Earth Observatory spliced a view of the planet from space for a whole year. In it, you can clearly see the transition through the seasons based on how much light reaches different parts of the globe.

Though the equinox arrives consistently on March 20, climate change is helping alter the timing of spring in the U.S. Researchers looking at “first leaf” date for a number of plants as a proxy for spring saw that spring started 3 days earlier during the period of 1991-2010 compared to 1961-1980. Parts of the country including the Southwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are seeing spring arrive up to a week sooner. That's a comparatively small increase, but it could upset a balance that plants and animals have developed over hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

MORE: Beautiful Scenes of Spring

Badamwari, Kashmir

Badamwari, Kashmir

Getty Images

Kashmiri park-goers walk past blooming almond orchards as spring arrives at Badamwari in Srinagar on March 18, 2013. Spring has arrived in Indian-administered Kashmir, which marks a thawing of the lean season for tourism in the Himalayan region. (TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)

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