Latitude and longitude is a gridded coordinate system across the surface of Earth that allows us to pinpoint the exact location. Latitude marks how far north or south of the Equator (zero degrees) one is while longitude determines how far east or west one is from the prime meridian (zero degrees), today located in Greenwich, London, United Kingdom. 

Greenwich has not always been the agreed-upon prime meridian. In the 18th century most European countries chose a location unique to them a built their maps off of that reference point. It was not until 1884, when 22 countries met in Washington, D.C., and voted the Greenwich meridian as the international standard. 

Other key points of latitude are the Tropic of Cancer (23°27’ N), Tropic of Capricorn (23°27’ S), the Arctic Circle (66°30’ N), and the Antarctic Circle (66°30’ S). The Tropic of Cancer located in the northern hemisphere is the point on Earth that receives the most direct sunlight around June 21st as the north pole tilts toward the sun. This latitude is mirrored by the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere and receives the most direct sunlight around December 21st when the south pole is tilted toward the sun. The Arctic Circle, which surrounds the North Pole, marks the point where the sun does not set around June 21st or rise around December 21st. Likewise, the Antarctic Circle, near the South Pole, is the location where the sun does not set around December 21st or rise around June 21st.

Explore this map to find out the latitude and longitude where you are today.


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Antarctic Circle
Noun

line of latitude at 66.5 degrees south that encircles the continent of Antarctica.

Arctic Circle
Noun

paralell of latitude that runs 66.5 degrees north of the Equator.

degree
Noun

unit of measurement for latitude and longitude.

grid
Noun

horizontal and vertical lines used to locate objects in relation to one another on a map.

Noun

distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.

Noun

distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.

Noun

symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.

Northern Hemisphere
Noun

half of the Earth between the North Pole and the Equator.

Noun

fixed point that, along with the South Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.

pinpoint
Verb

to locate exactly.

Southern Hemisphere
Noun

half of the Earth between the South Pole and the Equator.

Noun

fixed point that, along with the North Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.

Tropic of Cancer
Noun

line of latitude 23.5 degrees north of the Equator.

Tropic of Capricorn
Noun

line of latitude 23.5 degrees south of the Equator.