Tropic of Capricorn is one of the five major imaginary lines of latitudes. It is also known as the Southern Tropic as it is the farthest latitude in Southern Hemisphere where sunlight falls directly overhead. Around 21-22 December, the Sun reaches its vertical position over the Southern Tropic which is the summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere. Tropic of Capricorn encircles the Earth at 23 degrees 30 minutes south of the equator. This imaginary line is also seen as a separator between tropical and temperate zone in the Southern Hemisphere.
Origin of the Name Tropic of Capricorn
The word “tropic” is a Greek term for the phrase “to turn”. The Sun appears to turn its course from southward to northward direction as it reaches the Tropic of Capricorn and vice-versa for the Tropic of Cancer. Thus, the term tropic signifies the turn or change in Sun’s movement.
The term “Capricorn” is a combination of Latin words for “caper” meaning “goat” and “cornu” meaning “horn“. Some historians believe that this line of latitude was named centuries ago when the Sun used to appear in the Capricornus constellation during December Solstice. Currently, the sun appears in the Sagittarius constellation during December Solstice due to the precession of the equinoxes.
The zone between the Equator and Tropic of Capricorn is referred to as the southern tropical zone. The climate in this zone is mostly hot and moist throughout the year. It is interesting to note that the trade winds off the oceans determine the seasons in the tropical zone. These trade winds are responsible for the monsoon, the seasonal rains in and around the Indian subcontinent. In comparison to other zones, the tropical zone is biologically more diverse. This zone is home to the tropical rain forests, often referred to as the “lungs of the planet”.
Countries on Tropic of Capricorn
Compared to the Tropic of Cancer, the Tropic of Capricorn passes through a much smaller land area.
Tropic of Capricorn passes through the following 10 countries:
In addition, the Tropic of Capricorn also passes through territorial waters of the following:
- French Polynesia (France)
- Coral Sea Islands Territory (Australia)
Countries that Lie Totally South of the Tropic of Capricorn
- Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
- New Zealand
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