(CNN)It's almost time to hang up those winter coats. The season of flower blossoms, pastel colors, playoff basketball and Easter egg hunting is upon us.
This year, the first day of spring -- also known as the vernal equinox -- falls on March 20. Here's what you need to know about the occasion.
What's the spring equinox?
The vernal quinox marks one of the two times a year when day and night are nearly the same length. The term equinox comes from the Latin word equinoxium, which means "equality between day and night."
This phenomenon occurs when the center of the sun is directly above Earth's equator.
The spring equinox signals that the Northern Hemisphere of the planet has begun slowly tilting toward the sun, leading to longer days and more sunlight, according to NASA.
When is it, exactly?
The precise time of the astronomical start of spring is Wednesday at 5:58 p.m. ET. If you're in a different time zone, you can check what time it starts on the US Naval Observatory's website.