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What is the Fall Equinox?

Thursday is the last day of summer, and Friday is the fall equinox.

With Thursday the last day of summer 2011, fall is just hours away—and that means another fall (or autumnal) equinox, is coming on Friday.

But what is the autumnal equinox? Most people don't quite know, so let Capitola-Soquel Patch serve as the great explainer for all things equinoctial.

Equinoxes fall on the halfway point between  and occur, according to the Washington Post, "when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are of roughly equal length, everywhere in the world."

The nearly equal 12 hours of light and darkness can be attributed to the Earth's lack of an axial tilt on the day of the equinox. In fact, the word equinox is derived from the Latin words aequus, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night.

In Capitola and Soquel on the autumnal equinox, according to sunrisesunset.com, the sun will come up at 6:56 a.m. and set at 7:04 p.m. As you notice, that is not actually a perfect 12 hours of light and darkness. As timeanddate.com reports, this is because "the day is slightly longer in places that are further away from the equator, and because the sun takes longer to rise and set in these locations. Furthermore, the sun takes longer to rise and set farther from the equator, because it does not set straight down—it moves in a horizontal direction."

The exact moment of the autumnal equinox this year is 9:04 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time, or 2:04 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. You might be hard pressed to find a celebration at that hour, but don't let that stop you from indulging in fall festivities come the weekend.

Feel free to save your equinox partying for Saturday, when the Congregational Church of Soquel will put on , and in Capitola hosts a chicken wing contest with a big group of local restaurants participating.

See ya next year, summer. Hello fall, and happy autumnal solstice!

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