We all know what the equator is – that is, if we paid attention in geography lessons – but how many of us actually know what it does, or even why it exists? It’s an invisible line which travels around the middle of the planet and is used as an important reference point. It’s also here where you will likely find some of the hottest countries on the planet, too!
There’s also plenty of interesting phenomena relating to the equator here, too. It’s more than just an imaginary line – there are some truly weird time effects that occur here, and what’s more, it’s a reference for anyone who may wish to know where hemispheres start and end. Essentially, it is simply the joining point for the two halves of your globe, but there’s plenty more left for you to learn from our interesting facts about the equator below!
The equator is the line of reference dividing the northern and southern hemispheres around the planet.
The equator has a latitudinal degree of ‘0’, from which other degrees, northerly or southerly, together with longitudinal bearings, give map references to locate places on land or seas/oceans.
Other planets can have this linear marker imposed on maps/photographs, as a point of reference for features on their surface.
The equator is important for navigational purposes, for travellers by sea and air.
Measurements of temperatures at the equator, are recorded as traditionally being amongst the highest on the planet. This is due to the equator being nearer to the sun at the angle at which the Earth rotates.
A town in north west Libya, not on the equator, has the highest temperature on record so far. Al-Aziziyah reached a temperature of 57.8 degrees centigrade in 1922.
Temperatures at the equator lowlands average 23 degrees centigrade at sunrise and 31 degrees centigrade in the afternoons.
Unlike desert areas which can be hotter, the equator is affected by humidity from oceans/seas and high rainfall in some areas.
The equator is one of five latitudinal reference circles on the planet and is the longest one.
The other four are the Arctic Circle, the Antarctic Circle, the Tropic of Cancer, and the Tropic of Capricorn.
As Earth is not round, but bulges in the middle, it is a sphere known as an ellipsoid. At its tilted angle, the equator spins faster than regions to the north and south poles.
The Earth rotates completely once every 24 hours. In so doing, the equator is spinning faster than at the north and south poles, and the speed becomes slower the further the distance is from the equator.
Research has proven that our Sun and several other planets all rotate faster at their equators.
The equator on Earth measures around 25,000 miles long.
Orbiting 22,300 miles above the equator, weather stations rotate once per day in alignment with the equator to monitor weather pattern. They have fixed focus on one specific point on the equator.
Countries which the equator traverses include Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, the Maldives, Indonesia, and Kiribati.
The word ‘equator’ is Latin and translated means ‘Even Maker’.
The length of daytime and night-time are the same at the equator, all year round.
The ‘celestial equator’ is the name given to the imaginary, or projected plane of measurements in ‘celestial space’. This tool is used for measurements and forecasts.
The plane of the equator passes through the Sun twice per year. Winter and summer measurements derive from this and help us to form our calendar year. Known as the equinoxes, they are recorded annually in March and September.
At the time of the equinoxes, both day and night reach approximately 12 hours long, across the whole of the planet.
As rotational speed is fastest at the equator, the Space Centre at French Guiana, located at Kourou, is ideally placed for launching space craft. Less fuel is needed because of the increased velocity, and this means less weight and/or greater efficiency.
Space craft are launched in an easterly direction to match the direction in which the Earth rotates.
Both sunrise and sunset appear to arrive and disappear fastest at the equator.
The three largest oceans traverse the equator. They are the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
Ecuador is home to the highest point on the Equator. A summit of 18,996 feet (5,790 metres) is found on the Volcan Cayambe range.
Ecuador is also the only place on the equator where snow falls and sometimes settles on the ground.
The ‘snowline’ is recorded at the equator as being 3,280 feet (1,000 metres) lower than on Mount Everest!
Strangely, Equatorial Guinea is not located at the Equator! One of its islands, known as Annobon, is located 96 miles (155 kilometres) south of it!
The ‘Coriolis’ Force’ is a scientific phenomenon named after a French physicist and mathematician, Gaspard Gustave de Coriolis, who officially noted the discovery in 1835.
Coriolis discovered that, in the northern hemisphere, weather such as storms moved in anti-clockwise directions and in the southern hemisphere, in clockwise directions. The equator remains an invisible boundary where the changes occur.
As it takes the planet 24 hours to make a full single rotation and as the equator is at the longest circumference of the Earth, your speed of travel would equate to 1040 miles per hour if you are just standing on the spot!
In relative terms, to those of us between either of the polar regions, the further we are from the equator, the slower we are moving.
The reality of where the Equator really is, in Quito, was not properly determined until the arrival and accuracy of GPS (Global Positioning System) technology.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about the equator that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!