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What is Prime Meridian?

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The imaginary line or Prime Meridian line passes through Greenwich city of England. It is a vertical line that crosses the Equator and joins North pole with the South Pole. It is a 0 degree line.

A prime meridian is a meridian (a line of longitude) in a geographic coordinate system at which longitude is defined to be 0°. Together, a prime meridian and its anti-meridian (the 180th meridian in a 360°-system) form a great circle. This great circle divides the sphere, e.g., Earth, into two hemispheres. If one uses directions of East and West from a defined prime meridian, then they can be called the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere.

A prime meridian is ultimately arbitrary, unlike an equator, which is determined by the axis of rotation—and various conventions have been used or advocated in different regions and throughout history.[1] The most widely used modern meridian is the IERS Reference Meridian. It is derived but deviates slightly from the Greenwich Meridian, which was selected as an international standard in 1884.

The notion of longitude was developed by the Greek Eratosthenes (c. 276 BC – c. 195 BC) in Alexandria, and Hipparchus (c. 190 BC – c. 120 BC) in Rhodes, and applied to a large number of cities by the geographer Strabo (64/63 BC – c. 24 AD). But it was Ptolemy (c. AD 90 – c. AD 168) who first used a consistent meridian for a world map in his Geographia.

Ptolemy used as his basis the "Fortunate Isles", a group of islands in the Atlantic which are usually associated with the Canary Islands (13° to 18°W), although his maps correspond more closely to the Cape Verde islands (22° to 25° W). The main point is to be comfortably west of the western tip of Africa (17.5° W) as negative numbers were not yet in use. His prime meridian corresponds to 18° 40' west of Winchester (about 20°W) today.[2] At that time the chief method of determining longitude was by using the reported times of lunar eclipses in different countries.

Ptolemy's Geographia was first printed with maps at Bologna in 1477, and many early globes in the 16th century followed his lead. But there was still a hope that a "natural" basis for a prime meridian existed. Christopher Columbus reported (1493) that the compass pointed due north somewhere in mid-Atlantic, and this fact was used in the important Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 which settled the territorial dispute between Spain and Portugal over newly discovered lands. The Tordesillas line was eventually settled at 370 leagues west of Cape Verde. This is shown in Diogo Ribeiro's 1529 map. São Miguel Island (25.5°W) in the Azores was still used for the same reason as late as 1594 by Christopher Saxton, although by then it had been shown that the zero magnetic deviation line did not follow a line of longitude
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