This Monday, Spring will come to Crossroads at Big Creek, and at the same moment (regardless of time zone or daylight savings) to every other place in the Northern Hemisphere. This moment is called the Vernal Equinox, and is defined as “time when the sun crosses the plane of the Earth’s Equator, making night and day of equal length all over the Earth.” Actually, because of some odd quirks of geometry, the day and night are not exactly equal, but close enough.
Is the Vernal Equinox truly the beginning of spring? Cranes have been seen in Door County for a couple of weeks, and sap is running (off and on) in the maple trees, and goldfinch are starting to show blotches of yellow. .Our solar panels are producing more electricity. And SKI SEASON has been declared officially over. So is the Vernal Equinox meaningless?
Actually, no. From Monday on…, (oh, joy!) nights will become progressively shorter.. The decreasing length of the night…the hours of darkness…. activates profound chemical changes in many plants and animals.
Some plants are day-length neutral ( dandelions and cucumbers come to mind), but most plants contain light sensitive proteins. Consequently, in spring, shortening nights trigger the breaking of dormancy, growth, and flowering.
In wildlife, the decreasing hours of darkness stimulate hormone production causing changes in the color of fur and feathers, migration, and breeding behavior. Our songbirds already are singing their courtship songs. Owls already may have laid their eggs.
Considering that visible light is just a tiny portion of the energy reaching us from our Sun, it is mind boggling to consider how great its influence is on the Earth. We think visible light from the Sun—now shining on us for about twelve hours each day—is worth celebrating.
Two weekend family programs focusing on light are scheduled for the weekend. On Saturday, March 18 at 1:00 learners of all ages will explore the topic of comets, which are space objects we can see (occasionally) because they reflect visible light from the Sun. The program will begin with a film and will conclude our popular Comet Chef demonstration. The program is free and appropriate for all ages.
Sunday, March 19 at 2:00 we will celebrate SUN Day, with family friendly hands-on activities pertaining to our Sun, followed by a “Make Your Own Sundae” activity because, after all, it will be a Sunday.
The actual 2017 Vernal Equinox will occur in this time zone on Monday, March 20, at 5:29 am. which is before sunrise that day. We invite folks to celebrate the invisible event from the comfort of their own beds.
Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor support facility made up of the Big Creek, The Cove, and the Ida Bay preserves. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan just east of the Highway 42/57 Roundabout in Sturgeon Bay, is open 2:00-4:00 daily and during scheduled activities. Trails in all preserves are open for hiking, pet walking and biking 24/7 free of charge.
Saturday, March 18
1:00 Family Program: Comets
learners of all ages (you don’t have to come with a family) will explore the topic of comets, which are space objects we can see (occasionally) because they reflect visible light from the Sun. The program will begin with a film and will conclude with our popular Comet Chef demonstration. The program is free and appropriate for all ages. Upper Level of the Collins Learning Center.
Sunday, March 19
2:00 Family Program: SUN Day
Learners of all ages are invited to participate in family friendly hands-on activities pertaining to our Sun, followed by a “Make Your Own Sundae” activity because, after all, it will be a Sunday. Upper level of the Collins Learning Center.