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Coordinates: 23°26′16″N 0°0′0″W / 23.43778°N 0°E / 23.43778; 0 (Prime Meridian)

World map showing the Tropic of Cancer

The Tropic of Cancer is the circle of latitude on the earth that marks the northernmost path of the sun — the apparent "equator" — on the day of the northern summer solstice or the southern winter solstice.

Also referred to as the Northern tropic, it is one of the two tropics (with the Tropic of Capricorn) that represent the extremes of the sun's path across the sky with the change of the seasons.

Because of the tilt of the earth's axis of rotation relative to the plane of its orbit around the sun, the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer on the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the northernmost latitude at which the sun reaches 90 degrees above the horizon at its zenith, with the Northern Hemisphere tilted toward the sun to its maximum extent.

The tropics are two of the five major degree measures or major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth, besides the Arctic and Antarctic Circles and the Equator.



Monument marking the Tropic of Cancer northeast of Villa de Cos, Zacatecas, Mexico.

The Tropic of Cancer currently (Epoch 2010) lies 23º 26′ 17″ north of the Equator [1].

It is drifting south at the rate of almost half a second (0.47) of latitude per year (it was at exactly 23º 27' in year 1917).[2]

For checking and/or calculating these and other astronomical "constants" see below under External links. [3]

North of this latitude are the subtropics and the North Temperate Zone. The equivalent line of latitude south of the Equator is called the Tropic of Capricorn, and the region between the two, centered on the Equator, is the tropics.

The position of the Tropic of Cancer is not fixed, but rather it varies in a complicated manner over time; see under circles of latitude for information.
Starting at the Prime Meridian and heading eastwards, the Tropic of Cancer passes through:

Co-ordinates Country, territory or sea Notes
23°26′N 0°0′E / 23.433°N 0°E / 23.433; 0 (Prime Meridian)  Algeria
23°26′N 11°51′E / 23.433°N 11.85°E / 23.433; 11.85 (Niger)  Niger
23°26′N 12°17′E / 23.433°N 12.283°E / 23.433; 12.283 (Libya)  Libya The Tropic touches on the northernmost point of Chad at 23°26′N 15°59′E / 23.433°N 15.983°E / 23.433; 15.983 (Northernmost point of Chad)
23°26′N 25°0′E / 23.433°N 25°E / 23.433; 25 (Egypt)  Egypt
23°26′N 35°30′E / 23.433°N 35.5°E / 23.433; 35.5 (Red Sea) Red Sea
23°26′N 38°38′E / 23.433°N 38.633°E / 23.433; 38.633 (Saudi Arabia)  Saudi Arabia
23°26′N 52°8′E / 23.433°N 52.133°E / 23.433; 52.133 (United Arab Emirates)  United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi: usually this emirate only
23°26′N 55°24′E / 23.433°N 55.4°E / 23.433; 55.4 (Oman)  Oman
23°26′N 58°46′E / 23.433°N 58.767°E / 23.433; 58.767 (Indian Ocean) Indian Ocean Arabian Sea
23°26′N 68°23′E / 23.433°N 68.383°E / 23.433; 68.383 (India)  India States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh (Ujjain), Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal
23°26′N 88°47′E / 23.433°N 88.783°E / 23.433; 88.783 (Bangladesh)  Bangladesh Khulna, Dhaka, and Chittagong Divisions
23°26′N 91°14′E / 23.433°N 91.233°E / 23.433; 91.233 (India)  India State of Tripura
23°26′N 91°56′E / 23.433°N 91.933°E / 23.433; 91.933 (Bangladesh)  Bangladesh Chittagong Division
23°26′N 92°19′E / 23.433°N 92.317°E / 23.433; 92.317 (India)  India State of Mizoram
23°26′N 93°23′E / 23.433°N 93.383°E / 23.433; 93.383 (Myanmar)  Myanmar (Burma)
23°26′N 98°54′E / 23.433°N 98.9°E / 23.433; 98.9 (China)  China Provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong
23°26′N 117°8′E / 23.433°N 117.133°E / 23.433; 117.133 (Taiwan Strait) Taiwan Strait
23°26′N 120°8′E / 23.433°N 120.133°E / 23.433; 120.133 (Taiwan)  Republic of China (Taiwan)
23°26′N 121°29′E / 23.433°N 121.483°E / 23.433; 121.483 (Pacific Ocean) Pacific Ocean Passing just south of Necker Island, Hawaii,  United States
23°26′N 110°15′W / 23.433°N 110.25°W / 23.433; -110.25 (Mexico)  Mexico State of Baja California Sur
23°26′N 109°24′W / 23.433°N 109.4°W / 23.433; -109.4 (Gulf of California) Gulf of California
23°26′N 106°35′W / 23.433°N 106.583°W / 23.433; -106.583 (Mexico)  Mexico States of Sinaloa, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas
23°26′N 97°45′W / 23.433°N 97.75°W / 23.433; -97.75 (Gulf of Mexico) Gulf of Mexico
23°26′N 83°0′W / 23.433°N 83°W / 23.433; -83 (Atlantic Ocean) Atlantic Ocean Passing through the Straits of Florida and the Nicholas Channel
Passing just south of the Anguilla Cays ( Bahamas)
Passing through the Santaren Channel and into the open ocean
23°26′N 76°0′W / 23.433°N 76°W / 23.433; -76 (Bahamas)  Bahamas Exuma Islands and Long Island
23°26′N 75°10′W / 23.433°N 75.167°W / 23.433; -75.167 (Atlantic Ocean) Atlantic Ocean
23°26′N 15°57′W / 23.433°N 15.95°W / 23.433; -15.95 (Western Sahara) Western Sahara Claimed by  Morocco
23°26′N 12°0′W / 23.433°N 12°W / 23.433; -12 (Mauritania)  Mauritania
23°26′N 6°23′W / 23.433°N 6.383°W / 23.433; -6.383 (Mali)  Mali
23°26′N 2°23′W / 23.433°N 2.383°W / 23.433; -2.383 (Algeria)  Algeria


Road sign South of Dakhla, Western Sahara (claimed by Morocco) marking the Tropic of Cancer. The sign was placed by the Budapest-Bamako rally participants, thus the non-English inscription is in Hungarian.

The imaginary line is called the Tropic of Cancer because when it was named the sun was in the direction of the constellation Cancer (Latin for crab) at the June solstice. However, this is no longer true due to the precession of the equinoxes. According to International Astronomical Union boundaries, the Sun now is in Taurus at the June solstice. According to sidereal astrology, which divides the zodiac into 12 equal parts, the Sun is in Gemini at that time. The word "tropic" itself comes from the Greek tropos, meaning turn, referring to the fact that the sun appears to "turn back" at the solstices.


According to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale's rules, for a flight to compete for a round-the-world speed record, it must cover a distance no less than the length of the Tropic of Cancer, as well as cross all of the meridians, and end on the same airfield where it started. This length is set to be 36,787.559 kilometers - a number which implies a precision that certainly does not exist, considering the variations of the Tropic of Cancer as described above.

For an ordinary circumnavigation the rules are somewhat relaxed and the distance is set to a rounded value of at least 37,000 kilometers.

External links

See also


  1. ^ Trópico en movimiento by Roberto González (in Spanish)
  2. ^ Montana State University: Milankovitch Cycles & Glaciation
  3. ^ ...there are various competing models/formulas for obliquity, and they will produce varying results in the temporal dimension. I consider our ability to define the temporal dimension with accuracy to be limited, and we must allow for some error in long-time reaching. - James Q.Jacobs

Simple English

The Tropic of Cancer and other circles of latitude of the Earth

The Tropic of Cancer (cancer (♋) is Latin for crab) is one of the five major circles of latitude (imaginary lines around the Earth) that are often marked on maps of the Earth. This is the parallel of latitude that is 23° 26' 22" north of the Equator.

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