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How the Tropics Got Their Names

https://www.thoughtco.com/tropic-of-cancer-tropic-of-capricorn-3976951

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How the Tropics Got Their Names
The answer to the question "How did the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn get their names?" is written in the stars. Discover what that means.

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The Naming of The Tropics

The Naming of The Tropics
  • The Tropic of Cancer. It was so named 2000 years ago because the sun was positioned in the Cancer constellation during the June solstice.
  • The Tropic of Capricorn. It was so named at the time because the sun was in the constellation Capricorn during the December solstice.

The sun is no longer in those constellations at that time of year. The sun is now in Taurus at the June solstice, and in Sagittarius at the December solstice.

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Why the Tropics Are Important

  • The Tropics are places within the hemisphere where the sun can be directly overhead.
  • This was essential for ancient travelers who used the sun and stars to guide their way.
  • The Tropic of Capricorn can be found at latitude 23.5 degrees south, and the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees north.

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The Major Circles of Latitude

Latitude and longitude are used as addresses for every part of the world. On maps, latitude lines are horizontal, and longitude lines are vertical.

To define boundaries between countries that lack distinctive geographic borders, like mountain ranges or deserts, arcs of latitude are used. There are five significant latitude circles: Arctic Circle, Tropic of Cancer, Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, and Antarctic Circle.

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Living in the Torrid Zone

The geographical zone between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn is known as the Torrid Zone - also commonly known as the tropics.

The tropics have a moist climate and lush green vegetation. It is warm to hot year-round. Some areas in the tropics such as the Sahara desert or Australian outback are defined as "dry".

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