Free Talks: Autumn Equinox at Griffith Observatory

A pair of enlightening events will focus on the start of fall.

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Did you get your sundial back from the sundial cleaning shop yet?

Surely you sent it out well ahead of the autumn equinox, just to make sure it was shiny and buffed and ready to cast a shadow courtesy of the shadow caster, or, as it is more officially known, the gnomon.

But if you don't happen to own a sundial, or it's still in the shop, take heart, astronomy buffs: Griffith Observatory is here to fulfill all of your sky-gazing, time-contemplative yearnings, and, as it so often does, the landmark shall do so for free.

Autumn begins 'round this neck o' the woods ("neck o' the woods"=Northern Hemisphere) on Friday, Sept. 22, and more specifically at 1:02 p.m., at least in this time zone.

To honor this cosmic passage, when the lengths of day and night are even-steven with each other, the Griffith Park-based observatory will hold two equinox-themed talks. 

The first is at 12:40 p.m. on Sept. 22, which you likely know is local noon, though it is 40 minutes past the time we think of as actual noon. Mind-bending? Not really: Local noon arrives when the sun is at its tippy-toppiest spot on the sky.

The second talk'll come around sunset on the 22nd, at 6:45 p.m., on the West Terrace, and we don't need to tell you that standing on the observatory's glorious west-facing terrace, on the autumn equinox, as the sun takes its daily bow, has a little fall magic to it.

"Fall magic," of course, is meant poetically: It's science, and beautiful science, at that.

And, no, "even-steven" is not a scientific term for describing how the lengths of our day and night run the same at the equinox, but it works. It also works to say that nightfall will continue to come sooner and sooner, and then even sooner beginning on Sunday, Nov. 5, when Daylight Saving Time ends and we fall back.

So stock up on fuzzy socks, chili fixings, and anything you require to get your autumn on. It's here, so head to Griffith Observatory to burnish your equinox-focused education.

No one will test you on "gnomon," though, promise, or the other parts of a sundial. Though surely gnomon is one of the coolest of astronomy-related words, along with gibbous, quasar, and umbra.

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