Autumn Equinox: Daylight, Seasons, and Migration Through Maps

“Today is the Equinox! Are days and nights equal everywhere on Earth?”

The autumn equinox falls every year around September 23 or 24.  Equinox is latin for “equal nights.”  On this day, planet earth rotates so that the sun crosses from the Northern Hemisphere, across the equator, and to the Southern Hemisphere.

With Ms. Corwin’s Geography students, we explored an awesome interactive mapping tool, called Journey North.  This mapping and migration tool posed the question:  “Today is the Equinox! Are days and nights equal everywhere on Earth?”

From Journey North’s website, we followed these steps:
How to Report Your Daylight Hours
Step 1: Look up your sunrise/sunset for September 23, 2015.
   In Toledo, Oh:  7:23 A.M./ 7:32 P.M.  EST
Step 2: Find Daylight Hours
Calculate the length of time between sunrise and sunset.
  photoperiod:  11 hours 51 mins (11:51)
Step 3: Report your day length for the equinox.
 We did this!  We entered our area’s photoperiod, hours of daylight for others in the world to see!
Step 4: Explore Map
  We picked reports in the Northern Hemisphere (Churchill, Manitoba, Canada had 12:15 hours of daylight; Bonn, Germany had 12:21 hours of sunlight).  Reports in the Southern Hemisphere were in places like Cape Town, South Africa (12:01 hours of daylight), and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (12:09) – both at the southern tips of the continents of Africa and South America.
Most any habitable place on earth had close to twelve hours of light and 12 hours of darkness today.  Meanwhile, the far northern polar regions saw a glimpse of darkness for the first time in 6 months, while the far southern polar region of planet earth saw the first glimpse of sunlight.
Midnight in June in Arctic Svalbard!
Midnight in June in Arctic Svalbard!

This was a relevant time to share with young geographers my experience of 24 hours of daylight/ 7 days a week while in Arctic Svalbard aboard the National Geographic Explorer.  The midnight sun happens in the summer months north of the Arctic Circle, where the sun can be visible for a continuous 24 hours.  And as the sunlight shifts  to the opposite side of the world, the northern polar region polar bears will be eventually in total darkness.  The opposite idea, polar night, occurs in winter when the sun stays below the horizon throughout the day.
Gradually, as our seasons change, the penguins in the south by the Antarctic Circle will have constant daylight, as the sun remains visible at their local midnight.

Therefore, 24/7 daylight in the Arctic (North Polar region) means 24/7 darkness in the Antarctic (South Polar region).  Today’s Equinox marks an official change of seasons.  I loved co-teaching with our Geography Teacher, Ms. Corwin today.  We taught that animals use the Equinox, a change of seasons, to migrate.  What a great way to teach geography- actively studying maps as animals and seasons move across them.

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