The Tropic of Capricorn, also called the Southern Tropic, is an imaginary line (a latitude circle) which indicates the southernmost point where the sun is directly overhead at noon. This occurs during the solstice on December 21.
The Tropic of Capricorn is one of the five important latitudinal circles that are marked on the globe. It is 23°26’13.3″ south of the Equator. It passes through these countries/overseas territories –
- South Africa
- French Polynesia
The earth moves around the sun in an elliptical orbit. It is also tilted at an angle of 23.44°on its axis. Thus, for a person on earth, it appears as though the sun is in movement in respect to the “fixed” constellations or stars. This declination or bending of the sun’s rays is measured as an angle to the north or south of the celestial equator. In simple terms, to a person on earth it looks like the sun is in constant motion and is directly overhead between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn at any given time of the year. In ancient times, the Sun’s declination during the December solstice appeared in the constellation known as Capricornus. Hence, the latitude was named Tropic of Capricorn. Over the centuries, due to a subtle shift in the Earth’s axis, the sun is now plotted against the Sagittarius constellation.
The tropical zone – the region between the two tropics – is the hottest part of the earth. The Tropic of Capricorn passes through some very hot but very interesting places such as the Sandwich Harbour in Namibia, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the mangrove forests of Madagascar, and the West MacDonnell Ranges and some spectacular landscapes in Australia apart from a number of other beautiful places.