The Sun and the Seasons

The seasons are governed by the tilt of the Earth’s axis in space as it journeys around the Sun in a year. When the South Pole of the Earth is tilted towards the Sun, this is our Summer. Six months later, when the South Pole is tilted away from the Sun, it's our Winter. In between these we have Autumn and Spring.

The Sun and the seasons

The Sun and the seasons
Artist: Frey Micklethwait. Source: Museum Victoria.

Temperatures on our planet are not determined by the distance of the Earth from the Sun. Rather it is the angle of the Sun’s rays striking the Earth. In Summer, the Sun is high in the Sky and the rays hit the Earth at a steep angle. In winter, the Sun is low in the Sky and the rays strike the Earth at a shallow angle.

The seasons don’t begin on one day and finish on another. That's because our orbit around the Sun is continuous. It actually takes quite some time for the Earth to heat up or cool down, and that’s why the seasons change gradually.

So when do we actually start the seasons?

In some parts of the world, such as Australia, seasons begin on the first day of a particular calendar month - in March for Autumn, June for Winter, September for Spring and December for Summer. In other countries such as Britain, it’s accepted that the seasons begin on the dates that the Earth passes four special points in its orbit about the Sun.

Spring Equinox (AEST)

2016 September 23, 00:21
2017 September 23, 06:01
2018 September 23, 11:54

The Sun in spring

The Sun in spring
Artist: Frey Micklethwait. Source: Museum Victoria.

On the day of the Spring Equinox, the Earth’s poles are the same distance from the Sun. In Melbourne, the Sun rises due east, sets due west and gets to 52° above the horizon at noon. On this day there are roughly 12 hrs of day and 12 hrs of night.

Summer Solstice (AEDT)

2016 December 21, 21:44
2017 December 22, 03:27
2018 December 22, 9:22

The Sun in summer
The Sun in summer
Artist: Frey Micklethwait. Source: Museum Victoria.

On the day of Summer Solstice, the Earth’s south pole is tilted towards the Sun. The Sun rises south of east, sets south of west and reaches 75 1/2° above the horizon at noon. This is, usually, the longest day of the year.

Autumn Equinox (AEDT)

2016 March 20, 15:30
2017 March 20, 21:28
2018 March 21, 03:15

The Sun in autumn

The Sun in autumn
Artist: Frey Micklethwait. Source: Museum Victoria

On the day of the Autumn Equinox, the Earth’s poles are the same distance from the Sun. The Sun rises due east, sets due west and reaches 52° above the horizon at noon. There are roughly 12 hrs of day and 12 hrs of night.

Winter Solstice (AEST)

2016 June 21, 08:34
2017 June 21, 14:24
2018 June 21, 20:07

The Sun in winter

The Sun in winter
Artist: Frey Micklethwait. Source: Museum Victoria.

On the day of Winter Solstice, Earth’s south pole is tilted away from the Sun. The Sun rises north of east, sets north of west and reaches 28 1/2° above the horizon at noon. This is, usually, the shortest day of the year.

Alternatively, you can get it all on time and date

Comments (178)

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fnord k 21 March, 2009 08:52
thanks, this is super useful information
Mara Ripani 3 April, 2009 11:33
Exccelent I needed this info for my garden , right going out to my garden right now to plant garlic as your site has made it clear that the Autumn Equinox was on the 20th of march!! so better get those garlics in the ground immidiately, thankyouoooo!, mara
alex 20 March, 2016 15:32
why do you plant garlic in the spring? happy soon to be spring equinox alex
Jen 22 September, 2016 16:58
Alex... it is not Spring in March in Australia. It is Autumn in March in Australia!
Scotty 16 April, 2009 17:42
Thanks. Excellent site. One of the few sites that actually understand what a solstice is.
Kristina 19 April, 2009 00:38
You've peak my interest when you say 'usually' the longest or shortest day. When is the the solstice not the longest or shortest day? Thanks.
Discovery Centre 23 April, 2009 15:55
Kristina - information that will answer your query can be found in the March edition of Melbourne Planetarium's Skynotes.
Alex 21 April, 2009 21:53
thanks a lot, helped me understand what a solstice is
Anna 3 June, 2009 23:12
Awesome! one of the few detailed sites about seasons in Australia.. going to bookmark this one. Thanks
Lizzy P 22 June, 2009 13:50
great explanation, thanks for making solstices, equinoxes and seasons so easy to understand....
Terry Lord 22 June, 2009 15:01
Thank you, brilliant,so easy to understand. I will bookmark this one too.I have my garden prepared now I'll know exactly when to plant.
marie 24 June, 2009 07:38
This site is brilliant, easy to understand, informative. In all of my years learning about our planet, no teacher could EVER explain the Equinox and the Solstice so clearly. Good on everyone who has worked hard to make it such a success. This site is now 'offically' bookmarked! Fantastic work.
Leigh 11 July, 2009 18:22
When is the shortest day in Victoria Australia thanks Leigh
Discovery Centre 30 July, 2009 15:05

Leigh: the shortest day in the year is the Winter Solstice whose dates are mentioned in this info-sheet. Further details about the sun's movements can be found over at this sheet, too.

Zahra 26 July, 2009 13:38
It was a significant information for me and reply ro my answer. so thank you very much.
Chris Lockyer 1 August, 2009 19:24
Thanks for your Equinox explanations . This solved a disagreement I had with a friend about when true spring started.
Edward Buinowicz 20 September, 2009 23:08
A Very Excellent page that describes in a easy-to-understand manner. I have searched many other sites for this info and this is "tops".
Wizardo 24 September, 2009 03:35
Thank you for making something so complex, seem so simple. Being aware of the dates now give reason to, the slow start to summer and the long winter!
susie-jane 24 September, 2009 10:28
Hi I have a friend in USA who is a pagan priestess and is coming to australia in December for solstice conference do you have a contact or know of an expert in the solstice field in Australia? thanks for your help
Discovery Centre 25 September, 2009 10:26

The Discovery Centre can answer questions that relate to Museum Victoria's Collection and Research areas, including Science. If you have specific questions relating to astronomy and meteorology, such as the solstice, you can ask one of our experts on staff by contacting the Discovery Centre directly.

stephen Robards 20 December, 2009 13:05
What is the time difference between Melbourne and Wollongong for the Summer Solstice. You note that it is 4.47am is this same time for both locations?
Discovery Centre 22 December, 2009 13:42

An edited version of our Planetarium staff's response to Stephen's question is as follows:

The Summer Solstice is today the 22nd Dec at 04:47 Australian Easter Summer Time, or if you look at international sites you will see it listed as being on the 21st Dec. at Universal Time 17:47. 


The actual time difference between Wollongong and Melbourne is immaterial.  It is based on the precise time that the angle of the Earth’s tilt is most inclined toward or away from the Sun.


Marilyn 1 January, 2010 14:00
Excellent site. Easy to understand and great diagrams to help explain.
barry 13 March, 2010 12:13
the equinox controls many of the life style habbits of wild animals such as the mating season for wild red deer which is the start of the deer hunting season
Annette 21 March, 2010 15:28
So glad to have stumbled upon this excellent site!!!
Felicity 25 March, 2010 09:42
Excellent Website. I will visit again :-) It answered my questions on Equinox :-)
Darlyn Watts 27 March, 2010 17:13
We had a solar system installed, and I was trying to explain to my husband about how the sun is lower in winter... Thanks for the very helpful website, you explained it beautifully.
Chris 26 April, 2010 23:28
Hi, I like to know if there's anyway I can take a compass reading of a building's facing direction using the reference of the sun (to detect a true south direction)? I have problem taking accurate compass reading due to interference of magnetic field from man-made magnetic field (like underground wiring and light pole etc). Hope you can help. Thanks.
Discovery Centre 29 April, 2010 11:12

Compasses indicate magnetic north or south as they react to the Earth’s magnetic field but that’s offset with respect to our planet’s rotational axis (what most call geographic or true north/south). The direction of magnetic north or south is therefore slightly different. It's possible to find south using the position of the Sun in the sky but it's hard to be really accurate. A reasonable result can be got by observing the motion of the Sun across the sky. Wait for local noon by using a clock on standard time (simpler than having to allow an hour for daylight savings). At that time the Sun will be at its highest point above the horizon, so face the Sun and south will be behind you if you are in the Southern Hemisphere (or north will be behind you if in the Northern Hemisphere). Better still, use a sundial or a tall pole that will throw a shadow towards south at local noon (or towards north if in the Northern Hemisphere). You can then compare compass readings at the building and some well away from it with your noon observing of the Sun. Overall you should get a pretty good facing direction. These websites will give more information:  

Ted 3 May, 2010 18:35
Bring on 21 june as I dislike winter and the short days it brings with it
Gary Rowan Higgins 18 May, 2010 12:40
A wonderfully educational site. But let's hurry up and get 21st June out of the way. Bushwalking in Tassie is no fun when it's dark at 4pm!
C Hollingworth 27 May, 2010 16:40
Thankyou for providing such detailed and informative information!
Pam Sewell 14 June, 2010 13:15
Great website now I understand more about Solstice and Equinox can't wait for June 21 and longer days.
Danny Woods 21 June, 2010 08:44
Great site easy to use and understand
Louis Milkovits 21 June, 2010 14:07
Good site. Easy to understand. Thanks
Geoff Stewart 21 June, 2010 15:18
Great site, good clear explanations and diagrams. Thank you Museum Victoria !
John Larson 21 June, 2010 16:12
This is rather a stupid and uninformed question but I will ask it anyway - "In plain language without the scientific stuff please, what is the difference between the terms "solstice" and"equinox" - obviously, they don't mean the same thing so what essentially is the main difference.
Discovery Centre 22 June, 2010 11:55

Hi John - The equinoxes occur when the Sun is right across the celestial equator, and so day and night are of the same length for all observers on Earth. The equinoxes happen in March and September. In June and December are the solstices, when the Sun reaches its northernmost (in June), or southernmost (in December) point in the sky, and appears to stop (in its north-south movement) before reversing and heading back in the other direction.

Rob 22 June, 2010 09:22
Excellent description. Why do the times/dates for soltices and equinoxes vary a bit from year to year?
Vanessa 23 June, 2010 07:41
Thank you very much for nice concise information. I came to find the date of the winter solstices but was enlightened by the explanation of the difference between that and the equinox. I probably should have already know that but now I do and it’s thanks to this site
Discovery Centre 23 June, 2010 11:52

The date and time of the equinoxes and solstices change slightly because the Earth's orbit around the Sun is not precisely 1 year. The equinoxes and solstices happen when the Earth reaches a precise point in its orbit around the Sun. 


However the beginning of the year does not happen at the exact same point every year. We count years as being either 365 or 366 days long, but the orbit actually takes about 365.242 days to go from one March equinox to the next.


Thus in a non-leap year, the equinox will be about 0.242 days (approximately 5 hours 50 minutes) later than the previous equinox, while in a leap-year it will be 0.758 days (18 hours 10 minutes) earlier. Note that these figures aren't exact, and the combined effects of gravity from the Moon, the Sun and the other planets also cause a few minutes variation from year to year.

Portia 24 June, 2010 12:33
Excellent site, good explanation.Thanks for the information.
Richard Heagney 24 June, 2010 16:30
So if there was no tilt in the earth's poles, there would be no seasons?
Discovery Centre 27 June, 2010 11:45

Hi Richard,

That's correct - if the Earth's axis was not tilted, we would not experience the seasons as we understand them, since the Sun's rays would not be striking the surface of the Earth at such steep angles. If the Earth was not tilted, the Sun's rays would strike the Earth at a uniform angle.

Nice to be right for a change!! 25 June, 2010 22:13
Thank you for saving my marriage and answering when the shortest day of the year is. I knew l was right he knew he was.... and as it happens l was.
Paul Weaver (Fremantle) 6 July, 2010 09:04
Yesterday I was reading my original 1829 bound edition of 'The Mirror.' On page 368 was the following assurance: “The tip of the cat’s nose is always cold, except on the day of the (northern) sumer solstice, when it becomes lukewarm.” I’ve put an automated reminder on my computer to check our two moggies’ proboscises at mid-morning next 22 December.
Linda Schenckel 9 July, 2010 09:39
Thanks for the info. I say boo to June 21, we've hardly had a cold day here yet, I've only got to wear my new boots once!! Great site thanks for all the useful information. I will check my cats nose on December 22 as well, although living in mid Qld its likley to be hot anyway near Christmas.
felicity 23 July, 2010 21:10
Can you tell me what people who live north of the tropic of capricorn but south of the equator experience. I have been told they experience 2 equinoxes and 2 solstices each time not one. Is this correct or fallacious?
Discovery Centre 28 July, 2010 13:43

Hi Felicity - It is not true that there are two summer solstices at these locations. The summer solstice happens at a specific point in the Earth’s orbit. What is true is that the Sun will appear directly overhead twice a year in these locations. However this is not on the day of the summer solstice. On this day  the day length is longest, and the Sun appears the most southerly, and this will only happen once each year no matter where you are.

Linda 21 August, 2010 13:43
Great information thanks. I have one question though, I was told that the equinox also relates to wind, and that typically Victoria is at it's windiest in August & September. can you please advise if this is true, and, if so, why.
Liz 12 September, 2010 22:47
Thanks for a brilliant site. Just wanted to echo the previous question; I'd always heard that the equinox effects the wind and that March and September can be much more blowy. Is that true or coincidence? Is there any connection with spring tides too? Thanks
Discovery Centre 25 September, 2010 13:12

Hi Liz, 

We do not believe there is any relation between the equinox, and the weather or tides.  However it possibly is more windy between the seasons because that is the pattern in that part of the world at that time, thus, a coincidence.
As far as the effect on the spring tides, it should be pointed out that the “Spring” does not refer to the season in this instance, it refers to an earlier meaning, to spring forward or to rise. This is when the Sun and Moon align to give a higher than normal tide. The opposite of spring tide is neap tide when it is lower than usual.

Liz 2 October, 2010 22:32
Thanks, I'm so glad I asked!
Ronnie 14 September, 2010 20:52
Very interesting and informative website. However, I would be interested to know when Australia altered the change of seasons to the 1st of the month, ie 1st March, 1st June, 1st September and 1st December. As Australian students, in the '50s and '60s, we were always taught that the seasons commenced on the 21st of the aforementioned months in line with Britain.
Discovery Centre 17 September, 2010 10:15

Hi Ronnie, there is not actually an 'official start date' for seasons. When a season starts on a certain day it is only by convention. There is no government act or universally accepted scientific definition for what constitutes a season.

Most countries popularly use the equinox and solstice dates to 'start' the seasons' but meteorologists around the world start counting the seasons in the same way that Australians do - on March 1st, June 1st etc

Squib 22 September, 2010 07:50
Thanks this is very useful seeing as it is the spring equinox.
Robert 22 September, 2010 08:48
Thanks - it helped settle an argument with the weatherman!!!
JB 31 October, 2010 17:21
how long are the solstices?
Discovery Centre 5 November, 2010 13:06

Hi JB, the Summer and Winter Solstices are a moment in time when the Sun is at its most northern or highest in the sky and most southern or lowest in the sky extremes. This year this will occur on the 21 June at 11:28 UTC time and at 21st December at 23:38 UTC time. So in answer to your question about how long a solstice is, it is just a point in time.  Have a look at our infosheet on the path of the sun for more information.

Elizabeth Visnon 16 November, 2010 01:28
great information thanks. now i know more about the sun and the seasons!
Silvana Horwell 1 December, 2010 13:24
I don't see why we are told here in Australia, that our four seasons start on the first day of the month,i.e. Dec, March, June, Sept. Why is it different to the Northern Hemishphere where the seasons start on the 21st day of these months?
Al 2 January, 2011 21:17
Great site with easy to understand explanations and informative diagrams. Well done Museum Victoria. How refreshing not to have to wade through loads of gobbledegook.
Adam de Witt 24 March, 2011 09:51
Thanks for the details because this is important to me as I mark the true Saxon Year-teller (calendar) from its erstwhile beginnings, namely, the year begins with the Evennights (Equinox). This year-teller is the perfect one, never needing a leap year and self rights every year at evennights. It dates from the time the law was given to Moses and handed down into Saxon culture because the Saxons get their name from the Persians who called them, the Saka-suni, meaning, Isaac-sons. The Greeks and Romans applied their own versions of this name from whence we get Saxons. The reason the name was given to us was because we we living in bannishment in northern Assyria around 700 BC, becoming lost to history, and were sometimes called the lost tribes of Isaac (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). Our year-teller has months of 30 days and months were named after agricultural events, such as Winemonth, Havestmonth, Summermonth, Barleymonth and so on. Our weeks of 7 days were called, Onesday, Twosday, Threesday, and so on. Our feest days were the correctional days to fill in the caps to make up the full year.
Diana 30 March, 2011 12:47
When watching the moon recently, I have noticed the half moon rising has its bright side facing a southerly direction. I would have expected the light to be coming from the north, seeing its our exquinox. can you settle my mind on this please. I have been thinking its because Earth has had an axis change since the earthquake in Japan. looking forward to hearing from you.
Discovery Centre 8 April, 2011 15:33

Hi Diana, the bright side of the Moon always faces the Sun of course as that is why it is bright. From Melbourne this would generally mean that the bright side is facing north. The axis of the earth has not appreciably changed because of the recent earthquakes, but may have shortened our day by about a millionth of a second. It certainly would not have changed the sun angle onto the moon.

Phill 7 April, 2011 20:57
succinct explanation - cuts through the crap that can sometimes accompany astronomical discussion, but then astronomy is never simple is it?
Lesley 26 April, 2011 17:50
Thanks for an easy to understand factual site. Very useful for planning my vegetable garden!
campbell 28 May, 2011 11:37 website gives the shortest day in Melbourne in 2011 as being 17th June, whereas the Winter solstice is the 22nd. Why the discrepancy? I am looking to plant onions...
Heather Phillips 8 June, 2011 17:40
I'm so gald I found this site. I can now succinctly explain the equinox and solstice to my grandkids. They are very interested in the night sky, and your site is easily understandable. Thank you.
Toby 16 June, 2011 09:12
Very good information with nice diagrams. It would be better though if you specifically state where on the planet the solstice times relate - Melbourne Victoria I presume?
12 Apostles Visitor Information Centre 16 June, 2011 16:47
To try and explain solitice to people visiting the 12 Apostles Visitor Information Centre - Port Campbell is a challenge. Thankyou this has made it much easier
Thomas and Matthew Kaufman (twins) 20 June, 2011 14:53
Thanks for such a succint explanation for what can be a confusing topic. We always like to know when the shortest day is as, knowing that each day from then will be slightly longer, lifts our spirits. This is especially relevant for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Sandra Both 20 June, 2011 20:00
Thank you Museum Victoria. I am giving a talk about the winter solstice tomorrow night and it was difficult to find books to answer my questions. Now I know exactly when the farthest axial tilt occurs. I didn't realise it was different every year. I was interested to read about the similarities of the celebration in so many cultures.
Texas State School 21 June, 2011 12:52
We didn't realise the winter solistice occurred on different dates each year. We were thinking it was happening today.
Alan C Parsons 21 June, 2011 18:43
i have increasingly become more interested in the correlation of the planetary alignments and seasonal changes and this site has so much easy to understand explainations. i am so greatful for your input and comments. A City Farm not far from where i live celebrates the winter solstice every year with the community and interested ones who come along to join with us... so thank you for the accurate info.. Alan
Mary 21 June, 2011 23:18
Great web page. I've been counting down to 3.16am June22. For future reference what latitude and longitude are your times for? I'm in Toorak and I was wondering how I could calculate the solstice and other things for my location. I'm a curious sort.
Discovery Centre 25 June, 2011 14:25

Hi Mary, all our times and charts are for Melbourne at 37° 49’ 00 S and 144° 58’ 00 E. The times are local times adjusted for daylight savings. Now, as far as solstice and equinoxes go, they are all at the same Universal Time or GMT, and are given in local times.

The following web address should assist with any other queries you may have:  another good site is :



Sunny Joe 22 June, 2011 11:31
Hooray it's Winter Solstice Today :D
Alan Wiggs 22 June, 2011 13:12
Thanks - what I don't understand is how these solstice's (solsticii?) can be seen as marking the beginning of a season...? I would think they actually mark the mid-point of the season. E.g surely the summer solstice (when the sun reaches its zenith...) should really be mid summers day shouldn't it...?
Discovery Centre 1 July, 2011 12:30

Hi Alan, when seasons officially start and stop is a local convention that countries and communities adopt, and it depends on your latitude as well.  If you are in the tropics then there are only two seasons: the wet and the dry. Our aboriginals have 3 to four seasons again depending on your latitude.  See this great web site:

The Summer Solstice in Melbourne is generally not the hottest time of the year as the earth hasn’t heated up fully, and  is usually mid to end January.  So you could say this is mid- summer in Melbourne. Season times as can be seen are purely local convention and are based about the solstice.

Lachlan 22 June, 2011 14:47
thanks alot, now I have lost a bet with richie saying that the winter solstice was yesterday. gosh
Timo 22 June, 2011 17:59
You might want to note that in the Northern Hemisphere these are naturally the opposite, i.e. The Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice is Northern Hemisphere Summer Solstice etc..
Adam 22 December, 2014 20:37
Well no - no they are not 'opposite'. Not if you are close to the equator.
Lisa 23 June, 2011 16:59
Thanks for the excellent, uncomplicated and easy to understand explanation!!!!
Deb C 24 June, 2011 10:03
I think I just lost a bet with my daughter(12). Great information and very easy to understand. I also like that you answer people's questions and obviously know what you are talking about and that you are an Aussie site with relevant information to us Aussies. Thank you
Prabra Rao 11 August, 2011 21:19
Wow! This is top quality information! Thanks for the information and keep up the good work!
jademb 17 August, 2011 21:28
Absolutely brillian information and explanation. Am well equipped to teach about seasons to my students.
Mike 3 September, 2011 01:33
Excellent, concise and easy to understand. Makes sense of the seasons and how they are gradual things, not totally distinct like we often imagine.
Shashi 24 November, 2011 10:02
Excellent, we are in process of building the house and this information helps us lot in deciding the pergola roof and the garden beds
jeff skewbo 18 December, 2011 21:36
more need to said regarding the so called Australian - season starts. The simplilton accepted notion that the first day of a calender month like say Spring being Sept 1 or Summer as Dec 1 etc has as it's 'dubiuos' roots the need to push the period ahead of it's natural time is entrenched in institutions like retailers who want to announce the next sale ahead of competitors. Or moronic radio annoucers beating up something from nothing. Lets talk about that please so we can educate our people to the hijinx and robbery of a natural culture of which we as human being are more in tune with. Come on - get rid of it.
Pauline 11 March, 2012 07:11
I'm wondering why the times of day for the equinox' and solstice were so many hours out in 2011? 6 hours difference between 2010 and 2011 whereas 2012 was only about an hour etc.etc.
Discovery Centre 16 March, 2012 11:51

Hi Pauline, this link should give you the answers you are looking for. 



Thomas & Matthew Kaufman (11 yo twins) 15 March, 2012 17:17
Thanks once again for your most informative expose on the equinoxes. Because of you I (Thomas) won a bet with my twin brother about the date of the autumnal equinox (southern hemisphere) - Matt thought it would be 21st March but I bet on the 20th march - so thanks for verifying my prediction and winning me some money.!!
Sari 19 March, 2012 20:52
Just the information I was looking for and pulled it up with the first go on a google search. Thanks!
ARNOLD 20 March, 2012 22:14
I am an old man and once read that the British used March 1st as the Date that they put their servicemen here into Winter Uniforms and September 1st into Summer Uniforms. It is interesting to note that the Mother Country does not use the same dates. I agree with others that Australia should use the dates about three weeks later that most countries use.
Jenny 22 March, 2012 08:10
Just the information I was looking for and so easy to find. I love the art work. So why does Australia use the 1st of March as the start of Autumn?
Discovery Centre 22 March, 2012 09:29
Hi Jenny, Good question! See our answer to Ronnie's question (above - 17 September 2010).
DOn 13 June, 2012 18:51
I thought the Equinox was on the 20th March and 22nd Sepember
Discovery Centre 15 June, 2012 16:24

Hi Don, the Planetarium staff have said that the dates on this link are correct. The Spring Equinox occurs at 00:49am on the 23rd Sept. 2012 but on the other side of the Earth it occurs on the 22nd September.  

Karen 21 June, 2012 07:33
Happy Winter Solstice! Looking forward to longer daylight!
paul 21 June, 2012 10:27
my class 7d leap grade is learning about the winter solstice today
Jacob 21 June, 2012 10:29
My class is laerning about this in class. :) :)
Solstice 9 July, 2012 10:48
Very helpful information. Thanks! :)
James 15 August, 2012 05:46
Useful info.
Steve 7 October, 2012 05:42
When seeing Earth diagram seasonal tilt models most people show Earth tilted toaward Left. Sometimes this is confusing because some use tilt to the Right and again makes one confused on the 4-seasons like on Anartica vs. the Artic.
Robert 5 January, 2013 22:33
I don't see any mention of "Aprillion/ Parillion. 4th January/4 July". When the Southern Hemisphere is closest to the Sun. And Northern Hemisphere furtherest away.
Joanna Richardson 4 March, 2013 10:08
I really like this information but could it be updated for 2013 and 2014 please.
wisegeek 5 March, 2013 23:57
the first drawing is wrong. The seasons should be labeled in one hemisphere only. On the right part of the first drawing, the northern hemisphere receives more thermal energy from the sun. So the label should be summer in the northern hemisphere.
Discovery Centre 6 March, 2013 16:02
Hi wisegeek - we passed your comment by our Senior Curator of Astronomy, and the response was that the drawing you refer to is not wrong, it is correct and corresponds to the seasons in the southern hemisphere. The left most Earth is summer in the southern hemisphere and the right most Earth is winter in the southern hemisphere.
Dave 21 March, 2013 09:25
Hi. Is there an up dated page for "The Sun and the Seasons"? It only shows equinox and solstice dates to 2012. Like your site. Dave
Ann Cassar 13 June, 2013 17:13
I too would like to see this information updated with dates for 2013.
Rose 18 June, 2013 16:13
Hi, I was wondering if this information is only for Victoria or all States? Thank You
Mohan 21 June, 2013 20:25
Thanks for the detailed explanations.
Aijaleena 15 August, 2013 06:26
Thank you so much, and greetings from Finland. This site is excellent, and helped me understand for the first time why North-facing sun is the hottest in Australia. We have it the other way round. Fascinating stuff!
kevin 29 August, 2013 12:49
Why is not the a season equal time either side of an equinox? I would have thought that when the sun is at its furthest south on 21st dec, that this day would be the middle of summer.
Jess 6 September, 2013 09:44
This Helped me lots :) :P :D
Hannah 6 September, 2013 10:01
The helped lots and lots thanks :) :P :D XP
Ember 6 September, 2013 10:11
Hey, I am from queensland but this website helped me alot and i will be using this website again, thanks:) :P :D :O =)
c.p.cepurneek 13 September, 2013 08:40
Excelent page, but the link to 'Skynotes' in the 23 April, 2009 posting from the Discovery Centre is not working.
Discovery Centre 13 September, 2013 15:47
Hi C.P.! Apologies - you can find Skynotes here.
Jo-Anne 15 September, 2013 09:33
Are the winds we are currently experiencing (WA) related to the equinox. My father tells me they are equinoxial gales. Is there such a thing?
alexis 18 September, 2013 08:16
thank you very much for the useful info, cant understand how they put it at school
Petra 19 September, 2013 17:14
great source - thank you
David Rixon 21 September, 2013 08:19
It is amazing how ignorant the general population is when it comes to understanding the equinox as well as the solstice dates and why the earth has them! I have had many an argument that the earth goes away from the sun in winter and closer in summer. Don't get me started. Even Uni. students think this.
Rahul 23 September, 2013 09:20
Today is Spring Equinox!
nat 26 October, 2013 12:49
which places do not have a summer and winter solstice? and how do you know?
Discovery Centre 1 November, 2013 11:24

Hi Nat - All places on Earth experience the summer and winter solstice. The tilt of the Earth means that on the solstice days the rays of the sun strike either the latitudes defined by the Tropic of Cancer or The Tropic of Capricorn.   On the northern hemisphere winter solstice there is no light above 66.5 degrees north (Polar Circle)  but it is the summer solstice for the southern hemisphere where there is 24 hours of sunlight below 66.5 degrees south.  If the earth did not tilt then there would be no solstice and no seasons (Swinburne University).

The Melbourne Museum has information sheets that help explain the path of the sun and the tilt of the Earth:

Winter solstice 

The path of the sun

The sun and the seasons

Luke Creighton 18 December, 2013 22:15
Been arguing with my boss about something. He is working in Cairns, North Queensland and he says that when working on the northern face of a building at this time of year he is in the sun all day but i think the sun would be coming from further to the south therefore putting him in the shade. Can you please let us know who is correct, than you.
Discovery Centre 12 January, 2014 14:08

Hi Luke, we chatted with the Planetarium staff for you, and they have found a great website that will settle the debate between you and your boss. According to, for a short period around the longest day, 21st December, in Cairns, you would be in the shade, but for most of the year you would be in the Sun.  Sorry Luke, I think your boss is right!

nabeel 6 January, 2014 10:14
sun efect was low time place wich place?
Discovery Centre 7 January, 2014 12:44

Hi Nabeel,

We're not sure what it is you're asking - could you please clarify your question?

Steve 13 January, 2014 09:10
Has the 'apparent' trajectory of the sun varied over time? I've been farming all my life meaning we are always outside and observing. I think the sun rise and set points, particularly more noticeable in the summer, have become much further south of east-west in recent 15 - 20 yrs. ie- is the earth tilting more or in a slight wobble? If so what sort of weather or physical affect is the earth enduring?
Discovery Centre 15 January, 2014 12:57

Hi Steve,

For any latitude the Sun’s rising and setting points on the horizon, and its daytime path across the sky, haven’t changed in their seasonal pattern in any meaningful way since humans began observing such things. Of course, the rising and setting positions and the Sun’s path all do shift gradually during the year but that regular seasonal/annual cycle is due to the steady tilt of Earth’s axis at 23.5 degrees. There is, however, a very small change to the tilt over tens of thousands of years. This is due to the gravitational influences of the Moon and other planets, and minor changes to the elliptical shape of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. That small (“wobble”) effect wouldn’t be noticeable in a human lifetime. A major earthquake can make a very tiny change to the tilt but that would not make a noticeable difference either to where the sun rises, sets, or its path in the sky.

Karl Bonner 14 January, 2014 17:11
Don't forget the cross-quarters on February 3/4, May 5/6, August 7/8 and November 6/7! They form the cusps of both the Chinese and Celtic/Druidic definition of the seasons.
melanie 21 January, 2014 07:27
Thank you. You have filled in the missing infomation i was looking for
nacirema 30 April, 2014 23:58
good site
Woody 25 May, 2014 08:00
Given the information in this explanation, which I agree with, can someone explain why Australia and New Zealand meteorologists and weather presenters use 1st day March, June, September and December to mark the 1st day of the seasons? I see the simplicity of using the calendar dates but it seems to deny the cosmic rhythm of the Universe that keeps us in-tune with nature.
Fiona 2 September, 2014 16:34
Re woodys Question above, I too would like to know why Australia does this as it is the 2nd Sept today and everyone I speak to seems to be complaining it's still cold. I've explained the rationality of the earths orbit and the start of the actual seasons, but still I'm being stared at in dismay.
Discovery Centre 3 September, 2014 10:59
Hi Fiona - there are two main 'western' conventions on the commencement of the four seasons; those based on either the scientifc (Astronomical) basis determined by Equinoxes and Solstices, and those determined by the simple subdivision of the Gregorian Calendar. The nominated conventionin Australia, for better or worse, is calendar-based. There are many other interpretations of seasons (in most cases more than four) across numerous cultures, from Indigenous Australian, to Hindu, Tamil, Bengali and others.
marty burwood 11 October, 2014 06:49
It's erroneous to say that weather on earth is not determined by distance from the earth.There have been statements that the rotational axis of the earth has been shifted by large earthquakes, as well as the tilt. Also the fact that the Sun is, according to theoretical scientific prediction, halfway through its' life before it becomes a super nova.The sun as it burns internal fissionable material and ages, gradually gets brighter and of course hotter.The Sun has and is, the one main influence on Earth weather and climate.Human induced effects on our weather,climate,environment, with regard changes delivered through unsubstantiated and dubious 'scientific' evidence,therefor MUST BE negligible in comparison with Solar influences.I compare these fanatical protagonists with the opinionated and very superstitious 'flat earthers' of medieval times (paradoxical because the answer was always in the 1st chapter of the Bible but you had to look for the clue). Another interesting event is what is called our cyclical equinox winds.A little more complex maybe because these winds can also be the result of anticyclone pressure(high) produced by Australian desert moving to our west and low pressure produced by the 'polar front' or our Antarctic moving into the Southern Ocean and up to 'southeasterly' NZ, produce these winds which incidentally rotate in an Anti-clockwise direction us being in the Southern Hemisphere.NW>SWetc etc.
Cris Smith 16 October, 2014 05:52
Please - someone tell the announcers on the wireless and television's wasteland. Start of Spring Mid summer. Longest day 20-21-22 Dec Mid winter. Shortest day. 20-21-22 June Spring Equinox (middle of Spring) is September 20/21/22 (day 263/264/265) 365.25 / 8 = 45.66 365.25 / 4 = 91.31 Assuming each season is 1/4 of the year - First day of spring is 45.66 days after mid winter 21 June is mid winter (+/- 1 day) 21 June is day 172 (non-leap year) 172 + 45.66 = 217.66 Day 218 is first day of spring Day 218 is the 6th of August et sequens Day 309 the first day of Summer Day 309 is the 5th of November et cetera ergo, the first day of summer this year falls on (or one day either side) Guy Fawkes' Day. Just thinking out loud here.
ernemef 12 February, 2015 22:30
I believe that the temple of the sphinx in Giza is oriented directly towards the rising sun at the summer solstice. Does this mean that it is oriented facing exactly due east geographically with the earth's north geographic pole (i.e. the earth's rotational axis) at 90 degrees to this direction?
Discovery Centre 7 March, 2015 14:12

Hi Ernemef, apologies for the delay in replying to your query. With Giza at latitude 29.9 degrees North, the Sphinx does face directly east at summer solstice. That is, at right angles to earth’s north-south geographical axis, or north geographical pole. For more info see:


KIKIPANDA 28 February, 2015 15:27
Why does the Equinox and Solstice occur at different times of the year in the Northern and southern hemisphere?
Discovery Centre 2 March, 2015 13:27

Kikipanda; we're not sure if your question relates to the reversal of the equinixes and solstices between the northern and southern hemispheres, or if you are asking about the apparent timing differences of the event at different regions of the globe. Or, if you are curious about the slight timing differences from year to year.

In any case, each equinox and solstice event occurs only once and at one time (two of each per year), and depending on which side of the equator you are located determines what sort of equinox or solstice it is called, as seasons are reversed between hemispheres. For example, the Summer Solstice in Australia - the longest day - is the same event as the Winter Solstice in the UK - their shortest day. Astronomically its all the same event, but the position  relative to the equator determines the season in which the event occurs, which therefore determines the name given to it.

The exact timing of solstices and equinoxes is a single occurence/event in each case - the timing is usually shown in UTC, which is functionally the same as Greenwich Mean Time. Often the timing are calculated to the relevant time zone for clarity as shown in the page above, where it is shown in in Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) of Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time (AEDT) - these are the timings of these events as they occur in Melbourne.

don collins 3 March, 2015 08:56
2015 etc dates, times please
Aden 4 May, 2015 16:03
I found this page while trying to find out why the equinox and solstices are in the first month of the season. Usually not even the last week of the first month. I never realized our calendar was jammed up before, I have been mistaken about the timing of the seasons my whole life. So this means that the season actually starts 2 or 3 weeks before we say it does? So Autumn starts in February? Why such lies.
ninibroccolini 21 May, 2015 22:42
I wish there was more talk about the moon's path across the skies. Ive been trying to work out the best placement for my skylight so I can moon bathe in mid winter. Otherwise, brilliant, a wonderful, informative website, and thank you!
zerub 2 June, 2015 21:12
nice thanks ive learned a lot
Stephen A 18 June, 2015 16:05
Thank you for this web page; very useful, informative and clearly explained.
john 21 June, 2015 02:32
I love 2 days of the year the shortest 21 June and the longest 21 December, roll on summer now.........
glaisy 25 June, 2015 11:26
Why from January to June the noon heights of the sun slowly changes toward the north?
Discovery Centre 29 June, 2015 15:34
Hi Glaisy, over a year the Sun’s path across the sky, and the height it reaches at noon each day, changes day by day due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis. The Earth spins (rotates) on its axis at a 23.5 degrees tilt from the plane of its path (orbit) around the Sun. In the Southern Hemisphere, in mid-latitudes such as Melbourne (or Christchurch, Cape Town or Santiago), as we go from summer to winter the Sun’s path shifts day by day further into the northern side of the sky until it reaches its most northerly point and lowest noon height at mid-summer (January). It then reverses its daily path and finally returns to its lowest path and lowest noon height at mid-winter (July).  
Tim 4 August, 2015 18:54
Thank you, Not always perfect for Earth go around Sun on time by solar energy as we only taught by 4 season like Spring always start on 1st of September as i knew its not until September 23rd 2015..when sun warm up surface.
kasharo 3 September, 2015 12:30
it is good
Sandy 6 September, 2015 06:28
I believe the seasons begin on the first of the month in Australia are only for commercial reasons. For instance, if summer started on December 23 as it does inidt parts of the world , how would we be able to market the summer only 2 days before the gift buying season of Xmas which would only give you 2 days to "kick off " the promotions instead of 23 days. Could there be any truth to this? There is no scientific reason to do otherwise
Discovery Centre 6 September, 2015 10:40

Interesting idea Sandy, but according to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australian seasons are interpreted via climatic rather than astronomical events. Working on the principle that the three coldest months being regarded as winter, the three hottest as summer, and the three month transitional seasons either side of these extremes being Spring and Autumn respectively, this is how the first day of every third month coincides with the first day of the season.

Evidently the climate is, in turn, heavily influenced by solstices and equinoxes due to the angle of the sun, but the exact dates of these astronomical events aren't used to correlate the official onset of seasons here in Australia.

I'm not sure of any possible commercial advantage of distancing the official onset of Summer from Christmas, especially as shops are already gearing up for Christmas retailing now, and it's only September; the commerciality of Christmas seems indifferent to the seasons.

Leo Emmanuel Lochard 2 November, 2015 17:01
Thank you Museum Victoria for this Website presenting correct information and accurate data about our Solar System and the Universe. Many other Websites, including "NASA's" and "Window to the Universe" have reversed the tilt of the Earth -- they present the globe as being tilted towards the East instead of the West, and are publishing information falsely declaring that in Winter the Earth Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun -- whereas at Museum Victoria's Website, you show it the correct way: That in Winter, it is the Southern Hemisphere that is tilted AWAY from the Sun! I thought my calculations were off, but they were correct: As proven to me when I visited Museum Victoria for factual scientific Truth and accurate scientific data. Keep up the great work you're doing! Museum Victoria is an excellent Science Website and I commend your scrupulous care in providing teachers and students with the resources they need as they pursue new frontiers in Physics and Astrophysics knowledge. Again, I thank you very much!
ARNOLD 20 December, 2015 23:04
You stated that Weather Bureaus use the 1st day of March,June,September,and Decembers as the the beginning of different seasons. That may be true but most countries in the World use the Official & Accurate Astronomical Dates. It's time in 2016 that accuracy determines the OFFICIAL beginning of the seasons and the United Nations should correct this error.You never even commented on my statement years ago that it was Great Britain that used the 1st of these months to start the seasons and they later switched to the Astronomical Accurate Times which are three weeks later. This inaccuracy should be challenged by your organization with a proposal that the dates be changed. The World Meteorological Association would most likely be supportive of this change and should not be seen to be responsible for the inaccuracy. Get involved by getting it right!
sonal rathore 29 January, 2016 03:58
thnx for helping me
David Kypriotis 20 March, 2016 16:11
Hey could please describe what happens in January, because I've got an assessment due soon. Thanks!
Jenny Kelly 3 April, 2016 09:39
This is great information for gardeners. I came looking for information on the path of the sun at different times of the year. It helped me to understand how our two storey house will cast shadow on its south side throughout the year. I am planting fruit trees a few metres out from the house and wanted to be sure that they would receive enough sun when they require it. They will receive almost none in winter (which is fine) but several hours at other times of the year, so will be happy in that spot. It also helped me to understand the solstices and equinoxes and the reason why we have seasons. Thank you! I will be passing this information on to the science teacher that I work with in our kitchen garden classes at primary school level as I think our children will be able to understand this.
James 29 May, 2016 21:51
Does anyone know when Australia changed using the start date of the seasons to the 1st of the month.. As in the 50's/60's it was still inline with the Northern Hemisphere..
Gary Bass 15 June, 2016 17:43
The first colony under Macquarie had the start of the season's on the first of the month. The urban folklore suggests it was to do with summer/winter uniforms..widely quoted. Only former British colonies have seasons on first of the month(..and Denmark!?)
Discovery Centre 17 June, 2016 15:01

Hi James,

One thing to note is that there is not really an "official start date" for seasons at all. When we talk about a season starting on a certain day it is only by convention. There is no government act or universally accepted scientific definition for what constitutes a season.

While most countries popularly use the equinox and solstice dates to "start the seasons" there is no particular reason why this convention needs to be followed. Meteorologists around the world, for example, start counting the seasons in the same way that Australians do - on March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1.

Alice 12 June, 2016 11:33
Thx, it really helped me with my assignment.
Joanna 20 June, 2016 21:12
Many people appear concerned about the start date for the seasons here in Australia but less curious about the validity of these imported, European-based divisions. Four seasons in Australia, the same four regardless of which part of the country you're in? Elsewhere on the Museum's excellent website you can find how the original inhabitants of this vast land named and recognised the seasons as they actually occurred in their region. More relevant than starting dates and equally-spaced 'seasons'. Let's celebrate them instead.
Phil 27 June, 2016 00:04
All this equinox stuff is great to know.But it does,nt tell me in which year in the 90,s do the days and dates line up with those in 2016. I,m trying to set the calendar on my car clock, but the car was built in the 90,s
Zoe 9 October, 2016 08:29
Thank you Discovery Centre, the information really useful and helpful for my homework. -Zoe
Maureen 28 October, 2016 19:52
So presumably, in Australia you experience the same extremes of daylight in your summer & winter that we do in Britain & Northern Europe - is this correct?
Discovery Centre 1 November, 2016 10:19

Hi Maureen,

Yes, basically that’s correct. For matching northern/southern latitudes the hours of daylight, the length of the day, follows the same seasonal pattern, although opposite in one hemisphere compared to the other (winter in one while summer in the other).

However, a check on any atlas or globe will show that no part of Australia has an equivalent southern latitude to UK/Northern Europe. The closest would be Macquarie Island halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica, which is similar to Cape Horn, the most southerly part of South America. In fact, most of the southern latitude that matches UK/North Europe is open ocean.  

Fiona 1 November, 2016 13:42
Hello! This is really useful information. But do you know the dates of the Summer and Autumn Equinoxes for 2017? And also the Solstice dates? Am looking for the 2017 dates for a work project. Thanks!
Discovery Centre 1 November, 2016 13:53
Hi Fiona - hopefully our website content will be updated soon, but in the meantime there's dates and times for future Solstices and Equinoxes on this site by the Royal Museums Greenwich - just be aware that the seasons are reversed for Australian events, as this website has information for Northern Hemisphere events.
Tia 2 November, 2016 10:16
This was super helpful for my research!
Jacinta 8 December, 2016 11:10
Just letting everyone know that it is not the same season everywhere in the world because Christmas in Australia is in Summer and Christmas in America is in Winter. BTW Merry Christmas Everyone
Caitlin 21 June, 2017 07:49
You're out of date again. Please update. You're my go to site for these things.
Discovery Centre 21 June, 2017 15:13
Thanks Caitlin for your keen eyes - we are on to it, hopefully the updated information will be published on the next scheduled page refresh
Teresa Poloski 21 June, 2017 08:17
Solstices astrologically traditionally observed on the 21st June/December. Yet the weather announcers pronouncements state that here in the Southern Hemisphere summer and winter begin on the 1st June and December. ???
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