The earth is divided into imaginary lines called longitude and latitude. This system of lines was created so travelers could pinpoint exact locations all over the world. Latitude lines run horizontally, and longitude lines are vertical. Coordinates mark where longitude and latitude lines intersect, and they are measured in degrees. The beginning point for measuring latitude lines is the Equator. It is located at zero degrees and marks the dividing point between the north and south hemispheres. The zero-degree longitude line runs through Greenwich, England and is called the prime meridian. The prime meridian and the equator intersect in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Why is the equator important?
The equator is the point where we divide the north and south hemispheres. It is also the starting point for navigation. Lines of latitude originate at the equator and continue to the North Pole, 90 degrees north, and to the South Pole, 90 degrees south. The other main dividing lines of latitude are the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5 degrees north and Tropic of Capricorn, 23.5 degrees south.
What is different about the equator?
Due to the earth’s orbit and the rotation of its axis, the equator does not tilt towards or away from the sun. Therefore, places along the equator do not have longer or shorter days, nor do they have seasons. Places in the North Hemisphere, for example, have seasons marked by the solstice and equinox, where the sun is during different times of the year. This is not true for the equator. There, the day is always 12 hours long. The sun rises and sets at the same time every day and are the fastest sunrises and sunsets in the world.
The word equator comes from the Latin word “aequare”, which means to make equal. It is an easy way to remember that the equator is equidistant from the North Pole and South Pole and that its days and nights are equal lengths, 12 hours.
Who lives along the equator?
Most of the equator’s almost 25,000 miles is in the ocean. There are 13 countries that lie along the equator. They are dispersed through South America, Africa and Asia and include, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, Maldives, Indonesia and Kiribati.
Fun facts about the equator
With constant sun, it is easy to imagine that it is very hot along the equator’s great circle. But, in fact, there is snow in the mountains of Equador. And, half of the world’s rainforests are located on the equator, mainly in Brazil, Indonesia and Congo. There are also myths about the equator, like the moon flips upside down when crossing the equator, which is not true. The moon may appear different in each hemisphere based on your orientation, but it has not flipped. There are also seafaring legends about rituals to perform if crossing the equator. These ceremonies, that are said to pay tribute to King Neptune, are actually real and trace back to the Middle Ages.