By Phil Plait | September 21, 2008 9:48 am

The two things you need to know — and the merger of the two I’ll get to momentarily — are:

1) Tomorrow, Monday, September 22, at 15:44 UT (11:44 a.m. Eastern US time) the Sun’s apparent path in the sky crosses the projected path of the Earth’s equator in the sky. What does that mean? It means that this is the time of the autumnal equinox, the midpoint in time between the summer and winter solstices.

It does not mean you can only stand an egg on end on this day (or on the vernal/spring equinox).

2) APOD is the Astronomy Picture of the Day, the 800 kilogram gorilla of astronomy sites. It’s run by my friends Bob Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell, and every day they feature an astronomical picture with a brief explanation.

What do you get when you combine (1) and (2)? Why, a picture of me, standing eggs on end back in 1998. That was for the vernal equinox, but what the heck. It’s still a funny picture.

If you want to try to stand eggs on end yourself, I made this handy-dandy video six months ago to show you how.

Happy autumn! And for you Aussies, ¡ƃuıɹds ʎddɐɥ

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (39)

  1. I first heard this hoary old egg-on-its-end-during-the-equinox story back when I was working at a well-known Denver newspaper. The copy editors were bored (it was still a few hours before deadline) and somebody suggested we try and stand an egg on end so we could do a story about it for the next day’s paper. So, they dispatched somebody to get a carton of eggs and much hilarity ensued while this bunch of over-caffeinated editors tried to balance eggs next to their monitors. It didn’t work and it WAS the day of the equinox. Eventually the story got spiked by the managing editor who said we had better things to write about.

    got to take a carton of eggs home.


  2. (that should say that *I* got to take the eggs home)

  3. Thanks Phil. Spring hit early with a vengeance in Sydney yesterday. It hit 30 degrees C. Heater on a couple of days ago and then suddenly “man, whattabout that heat?”.


    Dr. Phil Plait, are those eggs in today’s APOD picture “Free Range”?

  5. BethK

    I’m such a nerd. I wanted to figure out how you wrote the greeting to the Aussies before I watched the video. But after watching the video (YouTube in 2012 comment was cool), my son is going to balance some eggs. Hmmm, he seems to think balancing it on the middle counts. I better go supervise and do one myself. :-)

  6. Oh, and it being the start of Spring for some of us here is Jonathon Coulton with First Of May… Definitely, I repeat, definitely NSFW (ie. Not Safe For WORK).

  7. RawheaD

    “It does not mean [that it’s only one of two days a year] you can stand an egg on end.”

    There. Fixed.

  8. PG

    When I first read your article, I had to try it myself. It’s a lot easier than it looks!

  9. Good point, RawheaD. I fixed the text.

  10. Sir Eccles

    This is clearly a sign of the coming apocalypse.

    If the Chiefs win this afternoon, I’m leaving the planet!

  11. Elmar_M

    My favorite way of doing it is the (so told) method of Columbus. Hardboil the “unborn chicken” and then gently bump it with the tip into the table, tadaaaaa!
    Works any day of the year. Actually I like doing that quite often (I like my eggs with my sandwiches).
    Just kidding.
    Great post as always Phil!

  12. «bønez_brigade»

    I think this is more correct:
    “It does not mean you can stand an egg on one of its ‘ends’ _only_ on this (or that one other) day.”

  13. The first 21 days of ƃuıɹds in Australia (which, of course, officially starts on the 1st of September over here ‘cos we like to keep the seasons aligned with the months) have been reasonably happy as far as I’m concerned.

    (P.S. Never mind what I’m doing on the computer at 3:30am.)

  14. Dan

    I tried it immediately after seeing the video. It only took me about 30 seconds to balance each of the two different eggs I tried it with. You just can’t be jittery when you do it.

  15. ABR.

    Ah, as long suspected — the Walrus may be Paul, but the eggman is Phil Plait!

  16. @ BethK

    ¿sıɥʇ ǝʞıl uɐǝɯ noʎ ¡ʞɥʇǝq ‘ʎɐp,ƃ

  17. Levi

    Writing upside-down is simply a matter of using some symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet.

    ¡əʇsɐʍ oʇ oɓ ʇ,upıp əəɹɓəp sɔıʇsınɓuıl ʎɯ ʍouʞ oʇ ʇɐəɹɓ s,ʇı

  18. yes, Phil’s method works… too bad my editors weren’t that patient… but then again, the fact their eggs kept falling over was sort of poetic justice, I thought…


  19. Dan Dangerously

    Phil, that is one bitchin’ shirt you be wearin’ in that picture.

  20. When I was reading your first book back in 2002 I tried standing an egg on end and was, in fact, able to do it. And it wasn’t on an equinox. Here’s the pic I took:


  21. Quiet Desperation

    Er… my eggs started hovering. Is that normal?

    I just figured logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead, but then the white knight was talking backwards, and the Red Queen’s lost her head as I tried to remember what the dormouse said.

  22. Quiet Desperation

    Dr. Phil Plait, are those eggs in today’s APOD picture “Free Range”?

    Yes. the eggs in question were, in fact, allowed to run around free.

  23. Naomi

    Spring’s been going pretty well, thanks XD It got to about 32 on Saturday, 27 yesterday, and should be about 30 again today 😀 Only about 13 right now, though. Bloody early starts. And we have gale warnings for the afternoon! (Although the severe thunderstorms should miss Sydney, damn!)

  24. I tried this in the Spring, but my cheap WalMart desk was too rickety. So I tried balancing it on my head. That worked fine.

  25. Oh, BA, any more live chats planned?

  26. Bloody oath!
    My fave day of the year! Spring Equinox. As of today the light time far outstrips the night time. We have even had a spot of rain! But we are still in serious trouble drought wise in Melb’n (water reserves at about 30ish per cent which is 10% down on last year… Crapulence)

  27. BigBadSis

    Wow!!! Your face on the APOD! I’m so impressed. Does that mean you’re a heavenly body??

  28. What does that mean?

    It might mean DEATH FROM THE SKIES!! Buy the book by Philip Plait, Ph.D., to find out for sure!

  29. BethK

    ǝɔuǝᴉʇɐd ɥɓnouǝ ʇou
    sɓɓǝ ǝɔuɐɿɐq ʇou ʇnq uʍop ǝpᴉsdn ǝʇᴉɹʍ uɐɔ ᴉ

  30. Quiet Desperation

    sɓɓǝ ǝɔuɐɿɐq ʇou ʇnq uʍop ǝpᴉsdn ǝʇᴉɹʍ uɐɔ ᴉ



  31. IVAN3MAN

    @ Quiet Desperation

    Free Range chickens like to keep warm when outside:

    <a href="

  32. Nadia

    And Happy Autumn to you, Phil! Or should I say, Happy Fall?

  33. Hi Phil!
    Sorry to put a tiny crack in your eggshell, but your spring salutation is a little belated… For those of us in the land downunder, spring already sprang back on the 1st of September….
    For some strange reason, that I have yet to uncover, we Aussie’s just can’t wait for the actual dates of the two equinox and soltices…. we jump the gun, and change the seasons on the 1st day of that month… i.e. 1st September is the first day of Spring; 1st December is the first day of Summer etc….
    Since coming to North America over 10 years ago, I’ve always found it strange that the longest day of the year occurs before summer has even really taken a foothold (up here in the frozen north anyways….) So very different to that which I am accustomed back home in Oz, where the warmer – even hot – weather has become much more firmly entrenched by that time, and the lessening daylight hours are a godsend later in the dog days of summer!

    If anyone can enlighten me as to why this is, I would be most appreciative : )

  34. One of my favorite TV series, which is usually science friendly, did a take on this in one episode, but the way they presented it left me miffed. CJ tells everyone that you can do this on the equinox and everyone says its bunk. But she does it, after everyone leaves the room. BUT…. she never tries it on a non-equinox day. (Well, maybe she does, in a later episode. I’ve yet to see the last two seasons.)

  35. @ belewhale

    When it’s summer in the southern hemisphere, the Earth is at its perihelion (closest approach, around January 3rd) to the Sun at a distance of 147,098,074 km; however, when it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, the Earth is at its aphelion (farthest, around July 4th) at a distance of 152,097,701 km from the Sun. Due to inverse square law, this results in the Earth receiving ~6.9% more solar radiation when at its perihelion than at its aphelion — which is why summers are bloody hot down under!

  36. HCN

    Obviously a couple of comic writers were thinking of this when they created this “Betty” cartoon:


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