Observation and Measurement

What is the prime meridian?

The north-south lines on a map run from the North Pole to the South Pole and are called “meridians.” The word “meridian” means “noon”: When it is noon on one place on the line, it is noon at any other point as well. The lines are used to measure longitudes, or how far east or west a particular place might be, and they are 69 miles (111 kilometers) apart at the equator. The east-west lines are called parallels, and, unlike meridians, are all parallel to each other. They measure latitude, or how far north or south a particular place might be. There are 180 lines circling the earth, one for each degree of latitude. The degrees of both latitude and longitude are divided into 60 minutes, which are then further divided into 60 seconds each.

The prime meridian is the meridian of 0 degrees longitude, used as the origin for measurement of longitude. The meridian of Greenwich, England, is used almost universally for this purpose.


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