Geography

Antarctic Circle

May 31, 2011, 10:50 am
Source: Wikipedia
Content Cover Image

caption The Antarctic Circle shown at the June Soltice. Source: Michael Pidwirny

The Antarctic Circle is one of the five major circles (or parallels) of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. As of 2000, it lies at latitude 66° 33′ 39″ south of the equator. The area south of the Antarctic Circle is known as the Antarctic, and the zone immediately to the north is called the Southern Temperate Zone. The equivalent line of latitude in the northern hemisphere is the Arctic Circle.

Every place south of the Antarctic Circle experiences a period of twenty-four hour continuous daylight at least once per year, and a period of twenty-four hour continuous night time at least once per year. That is to say, there is at least one whole day during which the Sun does not set, and at least one whole day during which the Sun does not rise. On the Antarctic Circle these events occur, in principle, exactly once per year, at the December solstice and June solstice, respectively.

These events occur because the earth's axis is tilted, by approximately 23.5 degrees, relative to ecliptic (the plane of the earth's orbit around the Sun). At the June solstice the southern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun to its maximum extent, and the region of permanent darkness reaches its northern limit; at the December solstice the southern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun to its maximum extent, and the region of permanent sunlight reaches its northern limit.

In practice several other factors affect the appearance of continuous day or night, the most important being atmospheric refraction, the altitude of the observer above sea level, mirages, and the fact that the sun is a disc rather than a point. Mirages on the Antarctic continent tend to be even more spectacular than in Arctic regions, creating, for example, a series of apparent sunsets and sunrises while in reality the sun remains under the horizon.

Due to gradual changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis, the Antarctic Circle is moving slowly. 

caption World map with Antarctic Circle in red

 Starting at the Prime Meridian and heading eastwards, the Antarctic Circle passes through:

 Longitude Territory or Sea   Notes
 0°  Southern Ocean  north of Queen Maud Land
 30° E  Southern Ocean  north of Queen Maud Land
 60°  Southern Ocean  north of Queen Maud Land, Amery Ice Shelf
 90°  Wilkes Land  
 120°  Wilkes Land  
 150° E  Southern Ocean  north of Victoria Land
 180°  Southern Ocean  Ross Sea
 150° W  Southern Ocean  north of Marie Byrd Land
 120°  Southern Ocean  Amundsen Sea
 90°  Southern Ocean  Peter I Island
 60°  Graham Land  Antarctic Peninsula
 30° W  Weddell Sea  

The expedition led by British explorer James Cook, on his second voyage of discovery (1772-1775), looked was the first to cross the Antarctic Circle in 1773.

See Also

Further Reading

Note: This article uses some material from the Wikipedia article Antarctic Circle that was accessed on <<March  25, 2008>>. The Author(s) and Topic Editor(s) associated with this article have significantly modified the content with original content and with content drawn from other sources. All content from Wikipedia has been reviewed and approved by those Author(s) and Topic Editor(s), and is subject to the same peer review process as other content in the EoE. The current version of the Wikipedia article differs substantially from the version that existed on the date of access. This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2. See the EoE Wikipedia Policy for more information

Glossary

Citation

(2011). Antarctic Circle. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbecee7896bb431f68e8b3

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