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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Brookfield Elementary -- September 21

42° 12' 53" N
72° 05' 52" W

Learn much more about Lat/Long 

Just in time (almost) for the autumnal equinox, the EarthView team is making its first visit to Brookfield Elementary School. This will be the last day until March 2013, on which the minutes of daylight will exceed the minutes of darkness in the northern hemisphere.

EarthView has not been to the school before, but it is in the district where our famous Globe Lady taught French and then geography at the middle-school level.

As the earth revolves around the sun, it experiences two equinoxes -- one in March and the other in September -- when every place on earth experiences 12 hours of daylight and 12 of darkness. This happens twice because the sun appears to cross the equator twice as its overhead position passes from its northernmost extent (23.5 degrees north) to its southernmost and back, over the course of each year.

As explained on the very informative Time and Date web site, the equinox can occur on September 22, 23, or 24. This year it is on the 22nd, more precisely it is on the 22nd at 2:49 p.m. UTC, which is 10:49 a.m. in Brookfield. UTC means Coordinated Universal Time (ask the Globe Lady about how this acronym makes perfect sense in French), and is otherwise known as Greenwich Mean Time, for the Royal Naval Observatory near London. Greenwich and London are five hours ahead of Boston and Brookfield, but do not observe Daylight Savings Time.

Some might ask how the equinox can occur at such a precise, single time if it is something that happens all over the world. The answer is that it is defined according to the time that the sun is directly over the equator. More precisely, the equator is at a right angle to the rays of the sun, but to observers on earth, it is the sun that seems to be crossing.

For those who really want to know the details -- or who just want to savor the last bit of summer's sunlight --  National Geographic writer John Roach explains why the 12-hour nights are still a few days away.

National Anniversaries Today

On September 21, 1984, British Honduras declared independence from the United Kingdom, ultimately being renamed Belize. EarthView team member Dr. Hayes-Bohanan (who unfortunately is not part of this year's Brookfield visit) will be making his first trip to Belize in June 2013 to teach about the geography of chocolate. His classes will be in the town of San Ignacio at 17° 10' N, 89° 05' W. How many degrees (and in what direction) away is San Ignacio from Brookfield? You can use a globe, map, or one of the utilities on our lat/long page to calculate the distance. In fact, it would be fun to calculate it several ways, and try to figure out which is most accurate. Then you can calculate how far it will take him to get from the center of San Ignacio to the nearest point in Guatemala, a country he previously visited in 2008.

September 21 is also an important date in two much larger countries, Germany and China. Following World War II, Germany was temporarily divided by four other countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. On this date in 1949, the parts controlled by the first three of these were joined together to form West Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland), which remained a country until it was reunited with East Germany in 1990. On the same day in 1949, China's communist rulers declared the People's Republic of China.

Storm Anniversary

This date is also the anniversary of one of the most significant storms to strike New England, the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. It took place before hurricanes were named, although it is sometimes called the Long Island Express. More importantly, it occurred before forecasting -- and communicating about -- ocean storms was very sophisticated. The storm's arrival in New England was predicted by one forecaster, but his boss disagreed with the prediction, so the storm arrived with absolutely no warning, carrying winds of over 120 mph, gusting as high as 186 mph. Today, the National Hurricane Center is much better able to predict the arrival, usually reducing the damage.

And Finally, a Book

Just one year before that storm, J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit, introducing an entire imagined world. It may be the only work of fiction with its own atlas.

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