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Spring Science Passage (Grade 3)

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Spring Science Passage

The vernal (or spring) equinox occurs just after 7 a.m. EDT on March 20 or March 21. The exact moment is different each year. If you live in the United States or other places in earth’s Northern Hemisphere, spring begins for you at that time.

The Latin word equinox means “equal night.” On the day of an equinox, daytime and nighttime are almost the exact same length. This will happen again on the autumnal equinox in exactly one half year.

Why doesn’t every day have equal parts day and night?

This constantly changing variation in the length of daytime is actually caused by the same thing that gives us changing seasons: the tilt in the earth’s axis. The earth spins on an axis that has an angle which is 23.5 degrees different from the angle of the path the earth makes around the sun.

Here’s a longer explanation:
Night and day are caused by the rotation of the earth on its axis. Sometimes your part of the earth is facing the sun (day), and sometimes your part is facing away (night). One rotation takes about twenty-four hours. Meanwhile, the earth is traveling around the sun in a path called an orbit. One full orbit takes one full year.

If the angle of the earth’s orbit and the angle of the earth’s equator were the same, the sun’s rays would hit all of the places of the earth the same way all year long. In addition, every place on earth would have one never-ending season with temperatures that got colder as you moved further from the equator.

However, our orbit and our equator don’t line up. The earth is tilted on its axis. For half a year’s time, the bottom half (Southern Hemisphere) of the earth gets more sun than the top half (Northern Hemisphere). During the next six months, the top half gets more. The vernal equinox begins six months of longer and warmer days for the Northern Hemisphere.

What happens on March 20 or 21?
  1. The autumnal equinox
  2. The vernal equinox
  3. Warmer weather
  4. Colder weather
On an equinox, the day and night are the same length.
  1. True
  2. False
What length of time passes between each equinox?
  1. 3 months
  2. 6 months
  3. 12 months
  4. 18 months
What happens in the southern hemisphere after the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere?
  1. It gets more sunlight.
  2. It gets less sunlight.
  3. It gets longer days.
  4. It gets the same effect.
Explain why there are not always equal days and equal nights in your own words.
Draw a picture to help explain.
Writing box and lines

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