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First Day of Spring Astronomy Above Portland, Oregon / Washington Coast: This Year is Unique

Published 3/18/24 at 1:35 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – Spring is finally here in the Pacific Northwest. Well, it will be officially so on Tuesday, March 19. And this time it's actually one for the record books. (Above: Short Beach near Oceanside - Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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According to astronomy expert Jim Todd at Portland's OMSI, it's the vernal equinox that at 8:06 p.m. for Oregon, Washington, the coastlines and areas like Seattle, Portland or Ashland. This is the day, Todd told Oregon Coast Beach Connection, that both the north and south poles of the Earth are almost an equal distance to the sun – some 92.6 million miles away.

The action is, in reality, above us all and is more than the switching on of more sun and warmer temps. There's a good deal of astronomy about spring.

“The first day of spring is called 'the vernal equinox', vernal meaning 'green', and equinox meaning 'equal night', which simply means that on the equinox the hours of daylight are nearly equal to the hours of the night,” Todd said.

If you're at Washington or Oregon coast spots like Long Beach, Port Orford, Coos Bay or Seaside March 20 and 21, you should look up around noon. Not that you'll notice anything different, but at least to mark the fact that's when the sun reaches its mid-latitude in the sky near 45 degrees from the horizon.

Arcadia Beach near Cannon Beach

“On the day of an equinox, it is a good day for finding due east and due west from your own backyard,” Todd said. “Just go outside around sunset or sunrise and notice the location of the sun on the horizon with respect to familiar landmarks.”

This year's spring is a wee different, too: indeed a bit extraordinary. For most of this 21st century, the spring equinox has happened on March 20 or 21, like it also did in 2020. Because this is a leap year, the equinox occurs on March 19 throughout all U.S. times zones.

Paradise Point near Port Orford

“Before then, the last time spring arrived this early was in 1896, 128 years ago,” Todd said.

Eclipse Coming Up for Oregon Coast


As you're thinking about astronomy, you may want to note in less than a month there will be a partial solar eclipse coming to the Oregon coast and even some of the Washington coastline. It happens April 8 between 11:20 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., with about 21% of the sun getting gobbled up.

On April 8, between 11:20 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., in and around 21% of the sun gets blocked along western Oregon and Washington, while other parts of middle America and the NE coastline will get to see the full solar eclipse. Coos Bay and much of the south coast will get to see the most of the coastlines at some 23%. April 2024 Partial Solar Eclipse Coming to Oregon Coast, Washington Coast

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Coastal Spotlight

Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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