Columbia Encyclopedia: Tropic of Cancer,
parallel of latitude at 23°30′ north of the equator; it is the northern boundary of the tropics. This parallel marks the farthest point north at which the sun can be seen directly overhead at noon; north of the parallel the sun appears less than 90° from the southern horizon at any day of the year. The sun reaches its vertical position over the Tropic of Cancer at about June 22, the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. When the Tropic of Cancer was named, the sun was in the constellation Cancer at the time of the summer solstice.
The line is called Tropic of Cancer because when it was named the sun was in the location of the constellation of Cancer (Latin for crab) in the sky at the June solstice. However, due to the precession of the equinoxes, the sun is now in the location of the constellation of Taurus at the June solstice. The word "tropic" itself comes from the Greek tropos, meaning turn, referring to the fact that the sun appears to "turn back" at the solstices.
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