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Tropic of Cancer vs. Tropic of Capricorn: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 23, 2024
Tropic of Cancer is the northernmost latitude where the sun can be directly overhead, at 23.5° North. Tropic of Capricorn is the southernmost latitude where the sun can be directly overhead, at 23.5° South.

Key Differences

The Tropic of Cancer, located at approximately 23.5° North latitude, marks the northernmost point at which the sun can appear directly overhead at noon. This event occurs during the June Solstice. In contrast, the Tropic of Capricorn, situated at about 23.5° South latitude, represents the southernmost latitude where the sun can be directly overhead, and this happens during the December Solstice.
Geographically, the Tropic of Cancer passes through several countries including Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, influencing their climates and solar exposure. Conversely, the Tropic of Capricorn traverses countries such as Australia, Brazil, and Namibia, impacting their environmental conditions and seasonal patterns in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Tropic of Cancer is significant for marking the start of the tropics in the Northern Hemisphere, where regions experience warmer climates and distinct wet and dry seasons. On the other hand, the Tropic of Capricorn serves a similar purpose in the Southern Hemisphere, delineating the beginning of tropical climate zones with comparable seasonal characteristics but during opposite times of the year.
In terms of cultural and historical significance, the Tropic of Cancer has been a reference point for navigators and geographers for centuries. Similarly, the Tropic of Capricorn holds geographical and navigational importance, being used historically to understand Earth's tilt and seasonal variations in the Southern Hemisphere.
Both the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn are crucial for understanding Earth’s geography and climate patterns, they differ in their geographical locations, the regions they pass through, and the specific times of the year when the sun is directly overhead at these latitudes.

Comparison Chart


23.5° North
23.5° South


June Solstice (Sun overhead)
December Solstice (Sun overhead)

Countries Passed

Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.
Australia, Brazil, Namibia, etc.

Hemispherical Impact

Affects Northern Hemisphere
Affects Southern Hemisphere

Climatic Influence

Warm climates, distinct wet/dry seasons
Similar climates but during opposite times

Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn Definitions

Tropic of Cancer

The northernmost point where the sun is directly overhead.
The sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer during the June Solstice.

Tropic of Capricorn

Distinguishes between temperate and tropical zones in the south.
South of the Tropic of Capricorn, the climate becomes more temperate.

Tropic of Cancer

Determines the start of the tropics in the Northern Hemisphere.
Regions near the Tropic of Cancer experience hot, arid climates.

Tropic of Capricorn

The southernmost point where the sun can be directly overhead.
The Tropic of Capricorn is reached by the sun during the December Solstice.

Tropic of Cancer

A significant latitude for climate and navigation.
The Tropic of Cancer passes through the Sahara Desert.

Tropic of Capricorn

An important latitude for understanding Earth's tilt.
The Tropic of Capricorn crosses through the Australian continent.

Tropic of Cancer

Separates temperate and tropical zones in the north.
The Tropic of Cancer marks the boundary of the northern tropical zone.

Tropic of Capricorn

A reference for explorers and geographers.
The Tropic of Capricorn has been used to study Earth's seasonal variations.

Tropic of Cancer

Used historically in navigation and geography.
Ancient mariners used the Tropic of Cancer as a key navigational tool.

Tropic of Capricorn

Defines the beginning of the tropics in the Southern Hemisphere.
Areas near the Tropic of Capricorn often have distinct seasonal changes.


What is the Tropic of Capricorn?

A line of latitude about 23.5° South of the Equator.

What countries does the Tropic of Cancer pass through?

It crosses countries like Mexico, India, and Egypt.

Why is the Tropic of Cancer important?

It marks the northern limit of the tropics and influences climate and navigation.

Can you see the Tropic of Cancer?

It's an imaginary line, not physically visible.

What is the significance of the Tropic of Capricorn?

It's important for understanding Earth’s tilt and seasonal changes in the Southern Hemisphere.

Do the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn move?

They can shift slightly due to Earth's axial tilt variations.

Is the Tropic of Cancer the same as the Equator?

No, it's north of the Equator.

What is the Tropic of Cancer?

A line of latitude approximately 23.5° North of the Equator.

Is the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere?

Yes, it's located in the Southern Hemisphere.

What happens at the Tropic of Cancer during the June Solstice?

The sun is directly overhead at noon.

How does the Tropic of Capricorn affect climate?

It marks the start of the tropical zone in the Southern Hemisphere, influencing weather patterns.

What does the Tropic of Capricorn mark?

The southernmost point of the sun's vertical rays.

What hemisphere is the Tropic of Cancer in?

The Northern Hemisphere.

How does the Tropic of Capricorn impact navigation?

It serves as a reference point for navigators.

What ecosystems are found near the Tropic of Capricorn?

Various, including savannas, deserts, and forests.

Do the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn affect sea currents?

Indirectly, as they influence global weather patterns that can affect currents.

How does the sun appear at the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn?

The sun can be directly overhead at these latitudes during solstices.

Are there any deserts along the Tropic of Cancer?

Yes, including parts of the Sahara and Arabian Deserts.

Is the Tropic of Cancer always hot?

It passes through various climates, but many regions near it are warm.

What is the distance between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn?

Approximately 47 degrees of latitude.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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