Thursday, 25 September 2014

Thoughts occasioned by today being Equilux

Ever wondered why 'equinox' (which happened on Tuesday morning at 02:29 as the plane of the earth's equator passed the centre of the sun) does not mean exactly 12 hours of night and 12 hours of night?

It should do - and yet it's not. Because the sun is a disk and not a point of light, because of refraction of light through the atmosphere, the length of day in Warsaw on 23 September is over nine minutes longer than 12 hours. But today, the day is 12 hours, 1 minute and 18 seconds long. The closest it will be to Equilux - that moment when daylight and darkness are equal. Tomorrow the day in Warsaw will be 11 hours, 57 minutes and 16 seconds. That's it - night's closing in.

"And the days grow short when you reach September"

[It's worth visiting the excellent website, which answers the question about equinox not being exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night in a very succinct way. It's also an excellent website for astronomical data - moonrises and so on, one to bookmark and visit daily.]

Six dark months, culminating in the winter solstice on 21 December. On that day - and on the next - the Warsaw day will be seven hours, 41 minutes and 57 seconds long. Between now and then, we'll lose over four hours and 20 minutes of daylight.

But hop on a plane to London tomorrow, transfer to one of the long-haul terminals, and fly to Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Auckland or Adelaide, and you'll find that down in the Southern Hemisphere, winter's just coming to an end, and spring is about to burst forth.

We live on a lump of rock, spinning around its own axis every 24 hours, orbiting our star once a year. Our star the sun is one of 100 billion (or even 400 billion) stars in our galaxy, which we call the Milky Way. The Milky Way's one of 200 billion observable galaxies. The number of stars that we're aware of is between two and eight to the power of 22 (that's somewhere between 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 and 80,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

How many of those stars are orbited by planets that host life? Sophisticated, intelligent, sapient life? Maybe just one in every trillion? Does that sound reasonable? If so, we can expect 20 billion stars out there to support life.

Doesn't this place our existence, and the problems caused by Mr Putin, jihadists, the Ebola virus, climate change even - into a wider perspective?

As autumn draws in, man's mind turns to the souls of the departed and the supernatural. It is time to ponder the Universe in its entirety and consider our lives in that context.

This time two years ago:
The magic of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand's Marlborough region

This time four years ago:
Grandson of Poles elected to lead UK's Labour Party

This time six years ago:
Give me sunshine!


Epic research said...

What I heard about Equilux is that The equilux is simply the day which lasts closest to 12 hours, which would make it today, as it lasts 11 hours 59 minutes.

Michael Dembinski said...

It depends where you live - the website allows you to see how important a role latitude plays in precisely determining daylight length.

Anonymous said...

your final words in this blog entry resonate with me and reflect much of my current thinking. The departed don't wait to be invited back, they appear unannounced and enrich our experience with the tapestry of rich memory and reflection of experience

Frater Ecto III

Michael Dembinski said...

@ F.E.III:

Yes - unbidden they appear. But are they 'they', or 'you', or are we all one, and eternal?

Anonymous said...

That is a very testing question - I believe emphatically that they are certainly 'they' but they may be 'they - invested with the parallel memory banks that we have when 'they' were alive - and which so richly return at every juncture. As for being all one and eternal. This is the disciplined principle that is always in evidence. I will separately send you a section of an as yet unpublished story which I hope richly describes it.

Frater Ecto III