Pat Shingleton: "Tis the Season..."
This morning at 3:22 AM, the Sun slid across the equator, initiating the autumnal equinox. Before the designation of seasons, cultures recognized seasons as either rainy or dry. Others recognized them as growing, harvesting and winter, while others have marked ten or more seasons. The designation of four seasons has a definitive beginning and end with key moments when the Earth moves around the Sun. Equinox is Latin for "equal night." This isn't the case at the exact moment of the autumnal equinox for two reasons, sunrise and sunset occur when the Sun's top edge crosses the horizon. Earth's atmosphere changes the Sun's apparent position when it is low. Fall and spring equinoxes are the only times when the Sun rises due east and sets due west. Folks in the Northeast will enjoy the changing-of-the-leaves. Each leaf contains anthocyanins that act like a sunscreen and once the chlorophyll breaks down, photosynthesis slows. This process retards the absorption of light and excess light damages the leaves. Researchers determined that nutrient-poor leaves, low in nitrogen, causes the intense red color of sugar maple leaves. The peak foliage dates for Maine are October 1st through the 21st with New Hampshire offering displays from September 28th through October 21st. Vermont's best viewing dates are October 5th through the 28th. The Farmer's Almanac has the best times for peak foliage dates and designates Louisiana's peak from November 2nd through November 11th.