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It's The Great Circle, Columbus!



It's The Great Circle, Columbus!
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.81

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    declination, semi-circles, angular, ocean-going, cartographers, cartography, hypothesis, calculate, precise, meridian, accurate, personal, direct, sphere, parallel, navigation
     content words:    Since Earth, Geomagnetic North Pole, Geomagnetic South Pole, North Pole


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It's The Great Circle, Columbus!
By Trista L. Pollard
  

1     When Columbus first mentioned that the Earth was round, he had very few supporters. However, once he was lost and proved his hypothesis, a completely new area of science emerged. Cartography, or the science of designing maps, became extremely important to explorers and sailors who were seeking new lands to inhabit. It's still important today because maps are the reason we know more information about the changes to our planet's surface, and we are able to locate specific places on Earth.
 
2     Since Earth is a sphere, scientists use the Earth's axis of rotation to determine reference points for directions. The geographic north and south Poles are the points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects the surface of our planet. As you know, the equator lies halfway between the poles. This parallel separates our planet into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Parallels are the many circles that run east and west around the Earth (well at least on maps and globes). They are referred to as parallels because they are parallel to the equator. Parallels are labeled N for north of the equator and S for south of the equator. Cartographers measure the distance between these parallels in degrees of latitude.
 
3     Latitude is the distance north or south of the equator, which is 0 degrees latitude. Latitude is also referred to as an angular measurement. Since the distance from the equator to each of the poles is 1/4 of a circle (circle is 360 degrees), the latitude of each pole is 90 degrees. Another neat fact is that the actual distance of 1-degree latitude equals 1/360th of the Earth's circumference. That is equal to 111 kilometers. For every degree of latitude, there are sixty minutes (') and sixty seconds ("). Every minute of latitude equals 1.85 kilometers. If we were to locate the city of Washington, D.C., its latitude would be 39 degrees N. If we wanted a more precise measurement, then Washington, D.C. is located at 38 degrees 53' 23'' N latitude.

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