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Equinox Approaches

By Linda Tancs

An equinox is an astronomical event at which the sun is directly above a point in the equator. Occurring twice yearly (in March and September–the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, respectively), the practical effect is equal parts day and night. The mystical effect, however, is something else entirely. For thousands of years the Mayans have celebrated the equinox with a convergence of architectural and astronomical glory at Chichén-Itzá and Dzibilchaltun. The event begins at sunrise at the ancient city of Dzibilchaltun where the rising sun aligns with the Temple of the Seven Dolls. As magnificent as it is, nothing compares with the global audience in attendance at El Castillo, the great pyramid of Chichén-Itzá . The structure, honoring the feathered snake god Quetzalcoatl, has a staircase on all four sides, the steps of which total the 365 days in a solar year. On the afternoon of the equinox, the temple is aligned perfectly so that the sun and shadows create the appearance of a giant snake going down the side of the stairwell. Snake phobics might want to sit this one out.

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