Spring is coming early to the Northern Hemisphere (and fall to the Southern) and Google has two new balloon-themed doodles to celebrate the changing seasons.
This year, the seasons change this evening (March 19 EDT, March 20 GMT), the earliest equinox in 124 years. That record is on account of a quirk of the leap year cycles, which has given the U.S. relatively early spring equinox dates since 2000.
The equinox marks when Earth's orbit around the sun carries the planet so that its axis points neither toward nor away from the sun. That alignment means that the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive equal amounts of the sun's energy.
Related: The 2020 vernal equinox brings earliest spring to the US in 124 years
As Earth's orbit continues, the planet will be pulled so that the axis gradually points the Northern Hemisphere toward the sun and the Southern Hemisphere away from it. That's why this equinox is the vernal, or spring, equinox in the north and the autumnal equinox in the south.
The solstice this year, when the axis points most directly toward and away from the sun, will occur on June 20.
- Best night sky events of March 2020 (stargazing maps)
- Night sky, March 2020: What you can see this month [maps]
- The brightest planets in March's night sky: How to see them (and when)
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