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There are four special astronomical events — solstices and equinoxes — throughout the year that mark big changes to how long days and nights last.
An equinox happens twice a year: once to welcome the spring, and once to welcome the fall.
The Earth doesn't spin on a perfectly-straight axis or on a perfectly-rounded orbit. Instead, the Earth has an elliptical, or more oval, orbit and rotates on a tilted axis. This affects the amount of sunlight distributed across the globe, meaning different parts of the world get different amounts throughout the year.
During the spring equinox, the day finally catches up to the long winter’s night. During the spring equinox Sunday, March 20, the day and night lasted an almost exactly equal amount of time. "Equinox” is a name derived from Latin that means “equal.”
The daylight’s duration will continue increasing until it reaches its peak on the summer solstice. Solstice means “sun stands still” in Latin. During solstices, the day or night is at its longest. The summer solstice is the longest day, and the winter solstice marks the longest night.
After the summer solstice, we start losing daylight again until day and night are equal again on the fall equinox. After that, the night’s duration will start increasing until it reaches its peak on winter solstice. Then the days will begin getting longer again, and this cycle will repeat again and again as the earth keeps orbiting.
Mishka Mohamed Nour is a student at West High School and an editor, reporter and designer for the West Side Story.