Equinox vs Solstice: Difference and Comparison

The one trait that has helped humans evolve through the ages is the ability to learn and act accordingly. Recognizing patterns and utilizing the information for one’s gain is one of the most interesting parts of learning.

The terms ‘Solstice’ and ‘Equinox’ are related to the change of seasons on Earth, but people get confused between the two. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Equinoxes occur twice yearly when the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the Sun, resulting in nearly equal day and night lengths globally.
  2. Solstices happen twice yearly when the Earth’s axis is tilted most towards or away from the Sun, causing the longest and shortest days in each hemisphere.
  3. The spring and autumn equinoxes mark the start of their respective seasons, while the summer and winter solstices indicate the peak of their respective seasons.

Equinox vs Solstice

Equinox, also called a solar equinox, is a time when the sun crosses the equator of the Earth and appears directly above it instead of on the north or south. Solstice is an event that happens when the Sun reaches the most southerly or northerly excursion in relation to the celestial equator. It occurs twice in a year.

Equinox vs Solstice

Equinox is the period when the length of day and night is of equal duration. The two types of Equinoxes are Vernacular Equinox and Autumnal Equinox; these two occur because of the Earth’s tilt.

Due to Earth’s axial tilt, there’s a difference between seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere; during the winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, the Northern Hemisphere experiences summer.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of comparisonEquinoxSolstice
MeaningThe time when the sun crosses the Earth’s equator to enter the Northern hemisphereThe time when the sun comes to the minimum or maximum descent
OccurrenceThe two equinoxes happen around the 21st of March and about the 23rd of September. The two solstices happen on June 21st or 22nd and December 21st or 22nd.
Position of the SunPrecisely above the equator due to which the day and night are of equal length.Farthest north or south from the equator due to which the day is either the shortest or the longest.
ConditionSubsolar point is the equator.The subsolar point is 23.5 degrees North on the 22nd of June and 23.5 degrees South on the 22nd of December.  
SignificanceDerived from the Latin words ‘aequi’ and ‘noctium’, vernal equinox signifies the beginning of spring.Derived from the Latin words ‘sol’ and ‘stitium’ meaning ‘stalled sun,’ Solstice marks the change of duration of day and night.

What is an Equinox?

During this time, the Sun is directly visible above the equator or at either of the two points where the celestial equator and Sun’s pathway intersect.

The two equinoxes are the Vernacular equinox and the Autumnal equinox. 

Astronomical coordinates such as celestial longitude and right ascension are measured from this equinox. 

The Autumnal equinox that occurs about the 23rd of September as the Sun moves across the celestial equator to go south marks the beginning of the Autumn season.

From a cultural point of view, these equinoxes mark the beginning of seasons, and many conventional harvest festivals are celebrated on these dates. 

What is a Solstice?

A Solstice occurs when the Sun is either at the most northern or southernly extent concerning the celestial equator. The Solstice denotes the pausal of the Sun’s movement in its path,

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at the extreme north or south before reversing its direction. 

The two types of solstices are June Solstice and December Solstice.

This day is the longest day of the year (21st of June). The situation is the exact opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.

December Solstice, also known as Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, occurs about 22nd of December when the location of the Sun is above the Tropic of Capricorn from the celestial equator.

The time of Solstices is not easy to determine, unlike equinoxes, as the declination in the speed of the Sun is less than 30 seconds before and after a few days of the Solstice.


Main Differences Between Equinox and Solstice

  1. Solstices signify the change in length of day and night, but Equinoxes do not. 
  2. Equinoxes result in an equal amount of light and darkness received across the Northern Hemisphere.
Difference Between Equinox and Solstice
  1. http://solar-center.stanford.edu/AO/Sun-Track-Model.pdf

Last Updated : 06 September, 2023

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