Parallels and meridians

The earth is an Oblate spheroid and man, for a precise enough geographical location (with all that it entails) created imaginary lines: they are called parallels and meridians .

DefinitionParallels are imaginary circular lines located perpendicular to the axis of the earth.Meridians are semicircular imaginary lines that pass through the North and South poles
Important examplesArctic, Antarctic, Tropic of Cancer, Capricorn and equator lineGreenwich Meridian and Antimeridian

Parallels are imaginary circular lines located perpendicular to the very axis of the earth; instead, the meridians are semicircular imaginary lines that pass through the North and South poles

Definition of parallels

Parallels are imaginary circular lines that cross or are located perpendicular to the axis of the earth. Therefore, this human construction is used to determine latitudes, angular distance from the same equator and any point on the planet.

These lines built by the imagination of man have an East-West sense. And in some way they are numbered, starting from the 0 ° or line of the equator (the only line that is a circle in strict terms, since our planet is an oblate spheroid and that crosses the center of the terrestrial globe), up to 90 ° at the North Pole and the South Pole.

Important examples of parallels

We already announced that the 0 ° parallel or equator divides the planet into two hemispheres: North and South. However, there are others of great importance, which somehow complement it. A distinction is made here because they correspond to a specific position of the planet relative to its orbit of the Sun.

  • Arctic Circle:  It is the northernmost parallel. It is the area in which the polar night (December) and the midnight sun (June) of the Northern Hemisphere occur.
  • Tropic of Cancer:  If you will, it is another important parallel located in the north of the globe. It is characterized by being the place where the sun reaches its zenith, that is during the June solstice.
  • Tropic of Capricorn:  It is the southernmost parallel or imaginary line in which the sun reaches its zenith, which occurred during the December solstice.
  • Antarctic Circle:  This is the southernmost parallel, where the polar night (June) and the midnight sun (December) of the Southern Hemisphere occur.

Definition of meridians

Meridians are imaginary lines that go from the North Pole to the South, so they are shaped like semicircles as opposed to parallels. They divide the earth into two hemispheres: eastern and western, which you could say, geodesically, vertically.

Important examples of meridians

There are a total of 360 meridians; 180 west and 180 east of the zero meridian. Naturally, there are also principals here (one very particular).

  • Greenwich Meridian:  It is named after the contributions of the Greenwich Observatory in London. Likewise, said parallel passes through the location of said observatory. It is also the famous meridian 0. It is important to remember that since 1884 it has been used to establish world time zones. Taking its point as a reference, towards the East the hour increases; towards the West decreases.
  • Antimeridiano: It is called this way because it opposes  the Greenwich meridian, forming an angle of 180 ° with respect to the same meridian 0. It can also be recognized as meridian 180. This is the reference point as the international line of the date change.

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