Autumnal Equinox: Beetles wall up their burrows

March 30th, 2012
by Jo Law

I have not encountered any beetles of late, but I can report more frequent sightings of its distant cousin, the cockroach, scuttling indoors in search of warmer environs. The drier trend continued into this pentad as the Bureau of Meteorology announced the end of the 2010-11 La Niña event. The Bureau’s national media release reports: ‘Southeast Australia recorded its wettest 7-day period in history, and the combined effect of two back-to-back La Niña events contributed to Australia’s wettest two-year period on record.’ Data now confirms that we have returned to neutral conditions and the Bureau deemed a third consequective La Niña event in the coming spring unlikely. The organisers of the forthcoming Thirroul Seaside Festival no doubt welcome the news. Two years ago, we were lucky to miss the special traffic measures and road closures ocassioned by these festivities, as we drove to hospital for Hollis’s birth.

Hollis was born in the year of the metal tiger within the 60-year cycle of the 12 Chinese zodiacal animals (生肖). His date of birth put him under the star sign of Aries. When it comes to these seemingly pre-ordained ‘signs’, it is difficult, even for a non-adherent of astrology, not to find them compelling.

Interestingly, the 12 zodiacal signs are calculated using the same celestial coordinate system as the Chinese solar calendar, from which the almanac’s solar terms are derived. The ecliptic (the imaginary path of the sun as viewed from the Earth) is the plane of observation.  As with Chinese solar calendar, the prime merdian (0º) is marked by the March equinox. And in western astrology’s terms of reference Aries is the first sign in the zodiac that marks this beginning.

Around 2500 years ago, the Babylonians observed the constellation of Aries in the night sky during their vernal equinox. Western astrology inherited the Babylonians’ systems without accounting for precession (also known as the ‘precession of the equinoxes’). The Earth’s axis wobbles like a spinning top as a result of the combined tidal forces of the sun and the moon. Our planet’s axis traces a circle that takes 26,000 years to complete. As the axis move so does our view of the night sky. So in place of Aries, the constellation of Pisces now dominates the spring night sky in the northern hemisphere. As the axis completes its cycle, each of the 12 zodiac signs will takes its place at the eclipitic meridian.

On Hollis’s birthday, the constellation of Aries is nowhere to be seen in our southern night sky. Instead, we see the prominent Orion constellation with its jewelled belt and striking bow. At his heal is the faithful Canis Major with the brightest star, Sirius, as its nose. The hunter and his dog are accompanied by Leo, Gemini, and Taurus on the ecliptic.

2 Responses to “Autumnal Equinox: Beetles wall up their burrows”

  1. 1 Lucas
    March 31st, 2012 at 20:28

    happy birthday Hollis!

    from your fans
    Lucas, Lizzie and Albie

  2. 2 Hollis Bridgeman Law
    April 9th, 2012 at 23:42


    Lu-lu! May! May! Lizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!