Equator & Tropics

1.5 - Be able to use the major divisions of the Earth’s surface as astronomical reference points, including:
a) Equator
b) Tropic of Cancer
c) Tropic of Capricorn

The Equator lies exactly between the Poles at 0°. We refer to the Area above the equator as the Northern Hemisphere and below, the Southern Hemisphere.

The Sun is directly overhead at the equator at the Equinoxes on 2 days of the year.


The Tropics are a region where the Sun is directly overhead in the zenith at least once a year.

They are located between approx. 23.5° north and south.

Temperatures are generally hotter than elsewhere and there is little seasonal difference except for dry and wet seasons.

The northern tropic is called the Tropic of Cancer, the southern is the Tropic of Capricorn.

Between both tropics there is at least one day in the year where the sun is directly overhead.



Earth Map 360°

Top Tip

Remember which tropic is which: CAN comes before CAP alphabetically (looking at a map from top to bottom)

Did you know?
  • The Tropics were named after the zodiacal constellations that the Sun passed through at the time of the relevant solstice. This has changed due to the precession of the equinoxes (long term wobble of the Earth).
  • If we were renaming them accurately today, then the Tropic of Cancer would be of Taurus and the Tropic of Capricorn would be Sagittarius.

Equator & Tropics World Atlas