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First day of fall 2022: What you need to know about the autumnal equinox

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Find out what regions of the United States could have the most vibrant foliage this fall!

You might have already ordered a pumpkin spice latte or started planning your family trip to the orchard, but fall doesn’t officially arrive until Sept. 22. That’s the date of the autumnal equinox, which marks the first day of astrological fall each year.

Here’s what you need to know about the equinox before you kick off a season of crisp air, pumpkin carving and apple pie.

Fall 1

When is the autumnal equinox in 2022?

The autumnal equinox — also called the fall equinox or September equinox — usually comes on Sept. 22 or 23, though it has come as early as the 21st or as late as the 24th. 

In 2022, the fall equinox occurs at 9:04 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 22.

fall 2

What is an equinox and how many are there?

An equinox marks a date where day and night are about the same length. Each year, the sun crosses the celestial equator twice, giving us the fall and spring equinoxes.

The spring equinox, also known as the vernal equinox, generally occurs on March 20 or 21 each year and marks the start of longer days and shorter nights. The autumnal equinox marks the opposite — shorter days and longer nights — and the start of fall.

Here’s where things get tricky: If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, the equinox dates are reversed. Spring begins in September while fall begins in March.

fall 3

Is an equinox the same as a solstice?

While there are only two equinox days each year, there also are days to mark the beginning of summer and winter. Unlike an equinox, where days and nights are the same length, the summer solstice and winter solstice mark the dates when daylight hours are longest or shortest. In 2022, the spring solstice occurred March 20, and the winter solstice will be Dec. 21.

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What is the significance of the autumnal equinox?

Aside from kicking off the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox carries significance in different myths, religions and cultures.

In Greek mythology, the fall equinox marked Persephone’s return to the underworld, where she was reunited with her husband, Hades. In Japanese sects of Buddhism, Higan is celebrated for seven days around the fall and spring equinoxes. Modern pagans also celebrate the autumnal equinox with a Mabon feast to enjoy the gifts of the Earth.

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Is the harvest moon related to the fall equinox?

The harvest moon doesn’t fall on the autumnal equinox, but it is related. It’s simply the full moon that occurs closest to the date of the equinox. In 2022, the harvest moon could be spotted on Sept. 10.

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How long is fall in 2022?

Fall 2022 begins on Sept. 22 during the autumnal equinox and ends on Dec. 21 during the winter solstice. That gives you three months to enjoy scented candles, trick-or-treating, colorful fall foliage, seasonal squash and caramel apples.

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