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Earliest Spring Equinox Since 1896 Spans Two Days

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Depending upon which Turtle Island time zone you’re in, spring arrived either on Saturday March 19 or Sunday March 20—by a hair.

That’s because the exact moment that the sun crossed over the celestial equator—the imaginary line in the sky that corresponds with Earth’s actual equator—at precisely 12:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 11:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time, and 10:30 p.m. on the West Coast.

Either way, the sun is now in the Northern Hemisphere, and the crocuses are blooming!

This is also the earliest spring equinox since 1896, according to Earthsky.org. It’s partly due to this year’s Leap Year, and partly to other factors.

“The March equinox comes earlier and earlier every leap year all through the 21st century (2001 to 2100),” Earthsky.org says.

Indigenous Peoples have celebrated the spring and fall equinox since time immemorial, and at dawn on March 20 visitors to the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois got a glimpse of what it might have been like to witness the phenomenon eons ago. At 6:45 a.m. the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site hosted a gathering at the reconstruction of a solar calendar known as Woodhenge so people could watch the first spring sun peek over the horizon. While no rituals or ceremonies were performed “out of respect for American Indian beliefs and culture,” according to a media release, an archaeologist was on hand to discuss the history of the site before its original builders left.

The weather for the day did not quite match the season, at least in some parts of the Northeastern U.S., which received a dusting of snow after the mostly mild winter.

“Also notice the arc of the sun across the sky each day,” Earthsky.org notes. “You’ll find it’s shifting toward the north. Birds and butterflies are migrating back northward, too, along with the path of the sun.”