What Is the Spring Equinox? Facts, Meaning and Rituals Marking the Day Celebrated in the Google Doodle

A crop of flowering Spring Dawn daffodils are pictured near Holbeach in eastern England, on February 25, 2019. Google is marking the shift towards spring with its latest Doodle. OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

Google is celebrating the end of the long, dark winter for those in the northern hemisphere with its latest Doodle marking the spring equinox.

The search engine celebrated this time of year with an animation of a flower on the surface of the Earth to signal the official beginning of the new season.

Put simply, it is the mid-point between the middle of summer and the middle of winter. The key is in the name—"equinox" means "equal night" in Latin—and is a time when the length of daytime and nighttime is more or less the same across the world.

This is because the north and south poles are not tilted towards or away from the Sun on this day. So, the the length of daylight, around 12 hours, is virtually equal at all points on the Earth's surface.

However there will be some differences. Fairbanks, Alaska, will get 12 hours and 15 minutes of daylight while Key West, Florida, will get 12 hours and six minutes. This is because the sunlight is refracted as it enters the atmosphere at different latitudes, Vox reported.

The northern hemisphere spring equinox takes place on 19, 20 or 21 March and is also known as the vernal equinox, from another Latin word, "vernalis," meaning "of the spring."

Google's Doodle marks the spring equinox. Google

This will be the astronomical spring. The meteorological spring, Britain's Met Office said, started on March 1.

The exact equinox happens when the Sun is in line with the equator, which will take place at 5.58 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Vox reported. It is also worth keeping an eye out at 9.43 p.m, for the last "supermoon" until 2020.

This is when a full moon is in its perigee, or when it is closest to the Earth in its elliptical orbit.

The first moon of spring in the Northern Hemisphere is also known as the "worm" moon, a name coined from the appearance of earthworms in spring's moister and warmer soil.

People who live north of the equator may be hoping for warmer days and lighter evenings until Monday, September 23, which is when the autumn equinox takes place.

However, this is the opposite for those in the southern hemisphere, for whom of course Wednesday marks the autumn equinox, which is also being marked by Google's Doodle. The difference in this animation is that instead of flowers on the surface of the Earth, there are brown leaves.

The passage of spring is celebrated as a time of rebirth in many countries, with holidays and festivals such as Easter and Passover being celebrated.

This year's equinox coincides with the start of the Hindu festival of Holi which celebrates the victory of good over evil. Known as the "festival of colors" people take the chance to throw colorful powders over each other.