Question: How do people in Quito keep track of sunrise and sunset times?
Answer: They don’t bother—it’s always the same.
Sitting a sneeze away from the equator, Quito benefits from its position by enjoying predictable amounts of sunlight all year long, with day and night split into near-equal halves. (“Equanimity” comes from the same root as “equator”, after all.) There’s no need to set your clock ahead or bemoan the diminishing light as winter comes on, because the sun always rises between 6:00am and 6:30pm, and sets between 6:00pm and 6:30pm.
Surprisingly, no matter what time of year it is, daylight is never precisely 12 hours. You might that think that it would be at least on equinoxes (the March and September days when the equator is closest to the sun), but it is not true even then. Because sunrise is not the moment the sun is fully visible but the moment that the first part of the sun’s disk appears over the horizon, sunrise begins a minimum of three minutes earlier than full visibility; since true sunset means when the last edge of sun dips below the horizon, it runs a few minutes longer than you might think. As a result, even the “shortest” day in Quito is at least 12 hours and six minutes.
That imprecision applies to the position of the equator itself. The traditional location of the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) is about 16 miles outside Quito. First defined in 1736, with markers built in the 1930s and 1970s, it has long been a popular destination for visitors wanting to pose with one foot in each hemisphere. But the era of modern GPS and satellite photography revealed that the absolute dead center is actually 262 yards just north of the line—barely a blip measured next to equator, which is 170,000 times longer.
9 Fascinating Equator Facts
- Ecuador is the only country on earth named after its primary geographical feature.
- Though Mt. Chimborazo, at 20,459 feet, doesn’t make the list of mountains highest above sea level, its elevation gets a major boost from the equatorial bulge, making it the mountain closest to space.
- The 25,000-mile-long equator is the longest circle of latitude on the planet, crossing the territory of 14 nations.
- Astrologers have mapped out a celestial equator that reflects the same circle as the equator if it was projected onto the heavens.
- Though people often equate the equator with warm weather, the equator-straddling Volcan Cayembe receives significant snowfall and even has huts for intrepid skiers (who must go with a guide due to the risk of avalanche).
- Instead of four seasons, Ecuador boasts only two: wet (2/3 of the year) and dry (the months most closely corresponding to North American summer).
- The countries lying along the equator have, on average, the greatest density of natural biodiversity, including half of Earth’s rainforests.
- The belief that water will spiral down the drain in opposite directions depending on which side of the equator you are on is false, as circulation actually depends only the direction water flows into the basin.
- The equator is also a big deal at sea, so when sailors cross the equator, first-timers (known as pollywogs) are welcome into the “Kingdom of Neptune” by their experienced mates with an initiation ceremony.
Get closer to the sun than you’ve ever been when you discover all Quito has to offer on your Machu Picchu & the Galápagos adventure.