In your beautifully written New York Times article about the vernal equinox, entitled
“The Tilted Earth at Its ‘Equal Night of Spring’,” author Natalie Angier is incorrect when she makes the following observation:
“Twice a year …. If you could imagine being on the Sun and looking out toward our imaginary-skewered Earth, it would be like looking at a ball of yarn with a knitting needle
stuck through it, in perfect profile.”
This hypothetical view from the sun is only possible at the soltices, not
the equinoxes, when by optical illusion the “knitting needle ” appears
straight up and down ( unlike your diagrams, the “needle” is in fact tilted either
away or towards the sun at 23.5 degrees.
In actuality, at the equinoxes (the focus of the article), the “knitting
needle” would appear, from the sun, to be skewed left or right at its maximum tilt
angle of 23.5 degrees, depending on the season.
The olive (earth) in your illustration therefore misinforms your readers.
The primary problem is that the article references a hypothetical view of
earth from the sun, whereas the illustration is from an entirely different
perspective – out in space looking at both the earth and the sun. Again, the needle should be tilted 23.5 degrees, not straight up and down.
Unfortunately, you are using two poor illustrations that add nothing to Natalie’s narrative, other than confusing the actual mechanics that are actually in play.