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Photos: Five reasons to watch the sun on the first day of spring

1. After giving Australia, parts of South America and other land masses south of the equator a warmer summer than usual, the sun slipped north of the equator Thursday. Now, with the arrival of spring, the United States, Europe and most of Asia can expect longer spans of daylight.

For the United States and the Middle East, which were among the only places in the north to experience a colder winter than usual, the extra sunlight could start delivering a reprieve. The Upper Midwest and Northeast, however, can expect below-freezing temperatures to last another weekend.

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2. Thursday is technically supposed to bring equal amounts of nighttime and daytime. But the Earth's atmosphere and positioning actually produces a slightly longer day than night. And that trend of longer and longer days, which started back in December, continues through the start of summer.

3. Because of the Earth's positioning the next few days, drivers on flat roads traveling due east at about 7 a.m. and due west at about 7 p.m. will find themselves staring straight at the sun. At the North Pole, the elves have it hardest in some respects. They will see some degree of sunlight continuously until fall.

4. Flowers should be blooming soon, but climate scientists have been finding that spring has actually been beginning as much as three weeks earlier during the past couple of decades. Though a warming climate might be shifting the biological clocks of plants, scientists haven't determined what the effect of the earlier spring will be in the long term.

5. Christians, Persians and Pagans have a reason to celebrate the sun's split of the globe this week.

Easter, the Christian observance honoring the resurrection of Jesus, falls on the first Sunday after spring's first full moon. Since a full moon wrapped up earlier this week, Easter won't come until April 20.

In the Iranian tradition, the vernal equinox marks Nowruz, or New Year's Day. Some Persians celebrate by venerating ancestors, feasting, and gathering around a table with seven symbolic items (apple, garlic, vinegar, flowers, pudding, sprouts and coins).

For Pagans of the Germanic tradition, the equinox brings an early celebration of the goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre, who is often depicted with hares at her side.

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