Thursday, December 13, 2007

What time can we begin the Easter Vigil in 2008?

I know we haven't even celebrated Christmas yet, but this liturgical year is super-fast, and Easter will be here before you know it.

As you know, the Easter Vigil must begin in darkness. Click here for more information on why.

Based on sunset information from the U.S. Naval Observatory, Easter Vigil this year (March 22, 2008) in the Diocese of San José cannot begin any earlier than 8:00 p.m.

From the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department, the following information is provided for San Jose, Santa Clara County, California (longitude W121.9, latitude N37.3):

22 March 2008, Pacific Daylight Time
  • Sunset 7:22 p.m.
  • End civil twilight 7:48 p.m.

If sunset is at 7:22p, why can't we begin Easter Vigil 2008 at 7:30p?

Because there is a big technical different between "sunset" and "civil twilight." The technical definition of "sunset" is when the upper edge of the sun hits the horizon. At this point (7:22p) there's still some daylight in the sky. But what we're looking for is complete darkness.

Civil twilight in the evening is technically when the center of the sun is geometrically 6 degrees below the horizon. At this time (7:48p) there's still enough light to see the horizon, but it's dark enough to see the brightest of stars in the sky. Complete darkness, however, begins sometime after the end of evening civil twilight.

So 8:00p is the earliest time we can begin the Easter Vigil in 8:00p.

For more information:

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