The Autumnal Equinox 2021

So here we are then. The Autumnal Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) takes place this evening (Wednesday 22nd September)  at 20.21 Irish Time (19.21 UT).

Although  the term `equinox’  refers to a situation in which day and night are of equal length, which implies that it’s a day rather than a specific time, the astronomical equinox is more accurately defined by a specific event, i.e. when the plane defined by Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk (or, if you prefer, when the centre of the Sun passes through the plane defined by Earth’s equator). Day and night are not necessarily exactly equal on the equinox, but they’re the closest they get. From now on days in the Northern hemisphere will be shorter than nights and they’ll get shorter still until the Winter Solstice.

Many people take the autumnal equinox to be the end of summer. There is a saying around these parts, however, that `Summer is Summer to Michaelmas Day’ (September 29th), which is not until next week. I must say, though,  though it doesn’t feel very summery today.

Anyway, this is Welcome Week in Maynooth and, barring any sudden changes of plan, we’re due to start teaching first year students on Monday 27th September. Returning students commenced on Monday 20th. I gave my first lecture on Vector Calculus yesterday. That was the first in-person lecture I’ve done for over a year. It was strange because I taught the same students online last year, but obviously never actually saw or heard them, as students generally mute their video and sound when attending lectures. Today was an improvement on that but everyone in the class was wearing a mask so I still haven’t really seen them! At lest this means that all the students were observing the necessary protocol, which is a relief, and the masks didn’t interfere with them responding to questions of mine or asking questions of their own.

We are still one lecturer short as the visa office in Dublin has been sitting on the application from our new member of staff since June 23rd. On top of my own things to do I’ve been setting up lectures for him so the students can view them in the lecture hall remotely. I’m not sure how long that will go on for, although it’s out of my hands.

Other than that I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to iron out problems with the timetable – of which there are unfortunately many – as well as preparing my own lectures. I want to record my lectures from the classrooms but unfortunately the University has chosen not to install decent video equipment so I’ve had to improvise. I recorded yesterday’s lecture using a webcam attached to the stand for my tenor saxophone. It seemed to work out reasonably well.

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