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Fall begins Saturday


Fall officially begins with the autumnal equinox at 12:49 a.m. MDT Saturday, Sept. 23.

“Autumn” is a Latin word, apparently borrowed from the ancient Etruscans (they occupied Etruria in central Italy about 900 to 27 BC), that “first appears in English in the late 14th century,” according to www.livescience.com.

“In the 17th century, ‘fall’ came into use, almost certainly as a poetic complement to ‘spring,’” the website said. Today, fall is an Americanism – our fellow English-speaking Brits don’t use it.

An equinox occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in space above the imaginary equator on Earth.

Day and night are of approximately equal length during an equinox; the Middle English word means “equal night.”

We have an equinox each September and March. The June and December solstices (a Latin word meaning “sun” and “to stand still”) are when the sun is at its highest or lowest point in the sky.

Even though Las Cruces is expected to reach a high temperature in the mid-80s on Sept. 23, we can still begin to see fall colors in and around Las Cruces. The change in colors happens because the shorter days and cooler temperatures cause trees to stop the food-making process in their leaves. As the chlorophyll that gives leaves their green color breaks down and other chemical changes take place, brilliant oranges, yellows and reds become visible.