What is the Tropic of Capricorn?

The Tropic of Capricorn is also called the Southern Tropic.

What is the Tropic of Capricorn?

The earth's geographical coordinates are formed from latitude and longitude. Latitudes are imaginary circles that run parallel to the equator and specify the North-South position of a location on earth. Locations in the Northern Hemisphere are marked by the northern latitude and are assigned N suffix while those in the Southern Hemisphere are marked by southern latitude and are assigned S suffix. There are five notable latitudes that are found on maps and globes. These major latitudes include the equator, Arctic, tropics, and Antarctic. Latitudes to the north of the equator are denoted by a positive sign while those on the south are denoted by a negative sign.

Tropic of Capricorn

Tropic of Capricorn is an imaginary latitude line that goes around the globe on the south of the equator at approximately 23.50. It is the most southern point on earth and corresponds to the declination of the sun’s ecliptic to the celestial equator. The Tropic mainly passes through water since there is less land in the Southern Hemisphere for it to cross. However, it crosses near Madagascar, Australia, and Rio de Janeiro. Although the Tropic is at 23.437030 as of May 2017, it is gradually moving northwards at 15 meters per year.

Naming of Tropic of Capricorn

The sun crossed into the constellation of Capricorn over 2000 years ago around December 21. The incident led to the naming of the line of latitude that the sun crossed into as Tropic of Capricorn. The word “Capricorn” is borrowed from Latin word “caper” which means “goat.” Because the Tropic of Capricorn was named over 2000 years ago, its location today is not at the constellation Capricorn but in the constellation Sagittarius.

Geography and Environment

The Tropic of Capricorn separates the Southern Temperate zone and the tropics. Its position is not fixed on the globe but varies in a complex way over time. The tropics has some of the most variable rains in Australia, and agriculture cannot thrive in the wetter areas. However, in Southern Africa, farming is possible since rainfall is more reliable, though the yield is significantly lower. Areas in Brazil adjacent to the Tropic of Capricorn are extremely important agricultural areas as it receives warm and humid air from the Atlantic Ocean. In the west of Andes, the Humboldt Current makes the conditions around the area extremely arid creating the Atacama Desert, one of the driest areas in the world. The Tropic of Capricorn crosses ten countries and the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Coral Sea. Some of the landmarks located on or near the Tropic include Andes Mountain in Argentina, the Great Dividing Range in Australia, the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, and the Namib Desert in Namibia.


The Tropic of Capricorn divides the earth into several parts and marks the southern boundary of the tropics. It is also significant to the amount of solar radiation that reaches the surface of the earth according to the quantity of sunlight that hits the surface of the earth. The Tropic of Capricorn is also responsible for the formation of the different seasons such as winter, summer, spring, and autumn.

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