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THE EQUATOR: TWO HALVES OF EARTH

by: John Dakwak

Many equatorial regions have become so prominent that tourists around the world travel long distances just to see the regions andn sites where the imaginary lines called the equator passed through. Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors from all around the world make their way to these lines just to amuse themselves and have fun on the equator. Authorities in equator countries have successfully built monuments at the equator, thereby creating an avenue for tourists to visit and have lots of fun and engage in other side attractions.

For instance, every year, thousands of tourists visit the famous “Mitad del Mundo” or “Middle of the World” monument built at the equator in Ecuador. Usually there are many activities with side attractions and other business interests at the site. Because of the number of tourists who visit the site, a lot of tour guide services have also sprang up around the area and they are providing support to the many visitors and at the same time making some money. There is however disagreements as to the actual equator line in some places. That notwithstanding, tourists around the world have not stopped amusing themselves with the equator.

ABOUT THE EQUATOR

A map of Earth Showing the Equator line

The Equator is an imaginary line around the middle of the Earth. It is a halfway between the North and South Poles, and it divides the Earth into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The invisible Equator line runs around the center of the Earth at 0 degrees latitude. The equator is a big line going around Earth’s middle when it’s axis of rotation is held vertically. The earth is divided into imaginary traces referred to as longitude and latitude. This procedure of traces was once created so tourists might pinpoint to precise places in the world were the equator passes through. Lines like this are not actually lines on the ground, but are ways of saying where a place is on the globe. The ones that run horizontal (east to west) are called latitude. They tell us how far a location is from the equator. The other lines are vertical and are known as longitudes. Latitude strains run horizontally, and longitude traces are vertical.

Coordinates mark where longitude and latitude traces intersect, and they are measured in levels. The starting factor for measuring latitude strains is the Equator. The location is at zero degrees and marks the dividing point between north and south hemispheres. The equator and the prime meridian intersect within the South Atlantic Ocean. The equator is just under 25,000 miles long and the Earth bulges at the centre. The equator is the longest of our planet’s five main circles of latitude. Each one is based on the relationship between the Earth’s axis of rotation and the Earth’s orbit around the sun. While temperatures at the equator are very high, there is one single point on the equator where snow is found. The highest point on the equator is 4,690m, on the south slopes of Volcan Cayambe in Ecuador. So in theory, one could go skiing on the equator.

OTHER FACTS OF THE EQUATOR

Because of the earth’s orbit and the rotation of its axis, the equator does no longer tilt towards or far away from the sun. Hence, locations alongside the equator do not have long or short days, neither do they have any different seasons. The phrase equator comes from the Latin word “aequare”. This means to make equal. It is important not to forget that the equator is equidistant from the North Pole and the South Pole and the days, as well as nights, have equal lengths of 12 hours. At the equator, day and night are exactly the same length around the year. It is not just planet Earth that has an equator. All the planets have an equator. The sun and other stars in the universe also have equator. Any astronomical object that rotates on an axis will have an equator that goes around the object right in the middle when its spinning axis is vertical.

COUNTRIES THAT LIE WITHIN THE EQUATOR

The vast majority of the equator’s very nearly 25,000 miles is in the sea. There are14 nations that lie along the equator. This means that on planet Earth the equator passes through these 14 countries. They are scattered through South America, Africa and Asia. They are: Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Gabon, Indonesia, Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, Maldives, Kiribati, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Zaire.

EQUATORIAL SEASONS AND CLIMATE

Twice a year, the sun passes straight over the Equator. Throughout the rest of the 12 months, the equatorial regions quite often experience a climate with little seasonal variant. For that reason, many equatorial cultures appreciate two seasons namely the wet and dry. The Equator lies mostly on the three largest oceans, namely the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. Near the Equator, there is little temperature change throughout the year. However, there may be dramatic differences in rainfall and humidity. The terms summer, autumn, winter and spring do not generally apply. The lowlands around the Equator generally have a tropical rainforest climate, also known as an equatorial climate. Average annual temperatures in equatorial lowlands are around 31 °C (88 °F) during the afternoon and 23 °C (73 °F) around sunrise.

NIGHT, DAY AND SEASONS

The equator itself crosses the land or territorial waters of 14 countries. If you live on the equator you will experience the quickest rates of sunrise and sunset in the world, taking a matter of minutes. These places also have a constant twelve hours of day and night throughout the year, while north or south of the equator day length increasingly varies with the seasons. Many plants and animal species live in the equatorial climates. The Amazon and Congo rain forest ecosystems, for example, are amazingly rich in biodiversity. A single hectare of rain woodland in Brazil can have about 750 species of bushes and many Varieties of insects. The equatorial savanna of Kenya involves mammals reminiscent of lions, cheetahs, and elephants. The chilly Andes are famous for came lid species such as llamas, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos.

The equator is the best place to launch a spacecraft on Earth. That is because the rotational speed of the planet adds to the launch velocity of a rocket. Rockets launched from the equator can launch with less fuel, or carry more mass into orbit with the same amount of fuel. This is why the Guiana Space Centre is located in Kourou, French Guiana. And this is also why the Sea Launch platform travels from Los Angeles down to the equator before launching rockets.

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. Longitude and latitude are tools that pinpoint any location on Earth. With the dawn of GPS systems and Smart phone maps, it is not as common to map out locations using long numerical coordinates. But the latitude and longitude system is the basis of many of those mapping apps, and an understanding of how to read those coordinates is a great way to increase geographical awareness and communicate global addresses in any language.

The vertical lines of longitude are also known as meridians. The starting point for lines of longitude is called the prime meridian. It passes through Greenwich, England, a spot chosen during an1884 conference to determine the latitude and longitude system.

BIODIVERSITY

In what might seem to be a contradictory pair of facts, the parts of the Earth that lie on the equator mark both the area with the world’s greatest concentration of natural biodiversity, and also human poverty. It is also the case that almost half of the world’s rainforests are concentrated on the equator, and they are in just three countries; Brazil, Congo and Indonesia.

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE EQUATOR

You are more likely to get sick on the equator: According to journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), if you live at or near the equator, you are at higher risk of getting asthma and other breathing related allergies. The study states that people living near the equator have a high risk of ultraviolet -B exposure from sun rays. This exposure can affect their immune system making them prone to allergies. The daytime is equal to the night time The day is consistently 12 hours. You will not have a longest day or shortest day of the year. You are going to have consistent day light and sunlight all year round.

YOU WEIGH LESS

The Earth bulges outward at the Equator because of the planet’s rotation and its tendency to stay in a straight line while moving. This creates a gravitational field that is uneven, with more pull on the poles than in the middle. It is due to this bulge that a person standing at the Equator is further from the majority of Earth’s mass than a person standing at either of the poles. But the weight difference is only 0.5%. That is less than a pound for anyone weighing less than 200 pounds.

MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT THE EQUATOR, CLOSE TO QUITO

Gravity is lower at the equator

Fact: the Earth spins quite fast, so, the greater centrifugal force at the equator weakens the gravitational pull. That is why rocket launch sites are usually located close to the equator. But it is unlikely that you will feel any difference, unless you are a rocket scientist. The water swirls in the opposite direction in each hemisphere

Myth: the phenomenon known as Coriolis Effect refers to great air currents that are influenced by the revolution of the Earth. As the planet spins, air moves clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere also influencing the tides. Is easier to balance an egg over a nail Theoretically, this is a fact. for the same gravity reason. Since gravity is weaker there, it is easier to balance things. But the difference is so insignificant that it will still be hard to achieve. It is possible not to have a shadow

Fact: at noon on the equinoxes of March 21 and September 23, the right angle formed by the sun’s rays and the objects at the equator casts no shadow.

THE EQUATOR IN ECUADOR

Although the equator runs through hundreds of places, one country that takes particular pride in its unique geographical location is Ecuador. In fact, the official name of Ecuador is the Republic of Ecuador which literally translates to “Republic of the Equator”. It’s capital city is Quito, which lies in the middle of the imaginary line. The Equator was discovered and mapped out by a French geodesic expedition team that was led by an explorer named Charles-Marie de La Comdamine in the year 1736. A thick yellow line runs through the grounds that supposedly marks the precise position of the equator.

However, a modern GPS unit has shown that the actual equator lies about 240 meters to the north of the indicated line. When asked about the discrepancy, park officials have argued that the nearby land where the Equator runs is traversed by a ravine and that the ground there was not suitable to hold a monument, and that informed why the builders chose a different location. Around half a million people visit Mitad del Mundo each year. But just a two-minute drive from the Middle of the World, is a local private attraction, known as the Inti’nan Solar Museum. There is a sign on a gate which says that this location is “calculated with GPS” to be exactly at 0 latitude.

EQUATOR IN UGANDA

Uganda is also one of the countries where the equator passes through. The Uganda Equator is 72km south of Kampala along the Kampala- Masaka Road. There are two cement circles marking the equator line. Other Equator lines in Uganda are located in Kasese district within the Queen Elizabeth National Park, 420km southwest of kampala. So many tourists have visited this site taking pictures and identifying with the equator.

EQUATORIAL SITES AROUND THE WORLD

In few cities around the World, Equatorial Markers/Monuments have been erected to attract tourists. Here is the list below. Four monuments are located in Ecuador. This is a country whose name itself means Equator. However these monuments have some controversy regarding the correct location of the true Equator.

■  Pontianak, Indonesia

■  Bonjol, Sumatra, Indonesia

■  Nanyuki, Kenya

■  Siriba, Kisumu-Busia Road, Kenya

■  Nabusanke, Masala-Kampala Road, Uganda

■  Kikorongo, Fort Portal – Mpondwe Road, Uganda

■  Mbandaka, DR Congo

■  Near Kongo, Libreville-Lambarene (N1) Road, Gabon

■  Islet of Rolas (Ilheu das Rolas), Sao Tome and Principe Islands

■  Macapa, Brazil Guachala, Cayambe, Ecuador

■  The “un-official” Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the Earth), San Antanio, Ecuador

■  The “official” Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the Earth), San Antanio, Ecuador

■  The old Equator Monument, Calacalf, Ecuador

Here are pictures of Equatorial lines and monuments erected in some countries

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