AskDefine | Define graticule

Dictionary Definition

graticule n : a network of fine lines, dots, cross hairs, or wires in the focal plane of the eyepiece of an optical instrument [syn: reticle, reticule]

User Contributed Dictionary



etyl fr, from etyl la craticula, diminutive form of cratis.


  1. A grid of horizontal and vertical lines.
  2. In the context of "specifically|geography": The network of lines of latitude and longitude that make a up a coordinate system such as the one used on the Earth.
  3. A square or rectangular region created by a graticule.

Extensive Definition

For the use of coordinates on Wikipedia pages see: Wikipedia:WikiProject Geographical coordinates
A geographic coordinate system enables every location on the earth to be specified, using mainly a spherical coordinate system. There are three coordinates: latitude, longitude and geodesic height.
The earth is not a sphere, but an irregular changing shape approximating to an ellipsoid; the challenge is to define a coordinate system that can accurately state each topographical feature as an unambiguous set of numbers.

Latitude and longitude

For discussion of latitude on Wikipedia pages see: Latitude
Latitude (abbreviation: Lat. or (φ) pronounced phi ) is the angle from a point on the earth's surface and the equatorial plane, measured from the centre of the sphere. Lines joining points of the same latitude are called parallels, and they trace concentric circles on the surface of the earth, parallel to the equator. The north pole 90° N; the south pole 90° S. The 0° parallel of latitude is designated the equator. The equator is the fundamental plane of all geographic coordinate systems. The equator divides the globe into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Longitude (abbreviation: Long. or (λ)pronounced lambda) is the angle east or west of north–south line between the two geographical poles, that passes through an arbitrary point. Lines joining points of the same longitude are called meridians. All meridians are halves of great circles, and are not parallel. They converge at the north and south poles.
The line passing through the (former) Royal Observatory, Greenwich (near London in the UK) has been chosen as the international zero-longitude reference line, the Prime Meridian. Places to east are in the eastern hemisphere, and places to the west in the western hemisphere. The antipodal meridian of Greenwich is both 180°W and 180°E. The choice of Greenwich is arbitrary, and in other cultures and times in history other locations have been used as the prime meridian.
By combining these two angles, the horizontal position of any location on Earth can be specified.
For example, Baltimore, Maryland (in the USA) has a latitude of 39.3° North, and a longitude of 76.6° West (). So, a vector drawn from the center of the earth to a point 39.3° north of the equator and 76.6° west of Greenwich will pass through Baltimore.

Graticule perspective

This latitude/longitude "webbing" is known as the conjugate graticule. In defining an ellipse, the vertical diameter is known as the conjugate diameter, and the horizontal diameter——which is perpendicular, or "transverse", to the conjugate——is the transverse diameter. With a sphere or ellipsoid, the conjugate diameter is known as the polar axis and the transverse as the equatorial axis. The graticule perspective is based on this designation: As the longitudinal rings——geographically defined, all great circles——converge at the poles, it is the poles that the conjugate graticule is defined. If the polar vertex is "pulled down" 90°, so that the vertex is on the equator, or transverse diameter, then it becomes the transverse graticule, upon which all spherical trigonometry is ultimately based (if the longitudinal vertex is between the poles and equator, then it is considered an oblique graticule).

Degrees: a measurement of angle

For a further discussion of angular measure on Wikipedia pages see: Angle
Geographic coordinates were first used by the astronomer and geographer Ptolemy in his Geographia using alphabetic Greek numerals based on sexagesimal (base 60) Babylonian numerals. This was continued by Muslim geographers using alphabetic Abjad numerals and later via Arabic numerals. In these systems a full circle is divided into 360 degrees and each degree is divided into 60 minutes. Although seconds, thirds, fourths, etc. were used by Hellenistic and Arabic astronomers, they were not used by geographers who recognized that their geographic coordinates were imprecise. Today seconds subdivided decimally are used. A minute is designated by ′ or "m" and the second is designated by ″ or "s". Seconds can be expressed as a decimal fraction of a minute, and minutes can be expressed as a decimal fraction of a degree. The letters N,S, E,W can be used to indicate the hemisphere, or we can use "+" and "-" to show this. North and East are "+", and South and West are "-". Latitude and Longitude can be separated by a space or a comma. Thus there are several formats for writing degrees, all of them appearing in the same Lat,Long order.
  • DMS Degree:Minute:Second (49°30'02"N, 123°30'30") or (49d30m02.5s,-123d30m30.17s)
  • DM Degree:Minute (49°30.0'-123°30.0'), (49d30.0m,-123°30.0')
  • DD Decimal Degree (49.5000°,-123.5000°), generally with 4 decimal numbers.
DMS is the most common format, and is standard on all charts and maps, as well as global positioning systems and geographic information systems.

Geodesic height

To completely specify a location of a topographical feature on, in, or above the earth, one has to also specify the vertical distance from the centre of the sphere, or from the surface of the sphere. Because of the ambiguity of "surface" and "vertical", it is more commonly expressed relative to a more precisely defined vertical datum such as mean sea level at a named point. Each country has defined its own datum. In the United Kingdom the reference point is Newlyn. The distance to the earth's centre can be used both for very deep positions and for positions in space.
The earth is not static, points move relative to each other due to continental plate motion, subsidence and diurnal movement caused by the moon and the tides. The daily movement can be as much as a metre. Continental movement can be up to 10 cm a year, or 10m in a century. A weather system 'high' pressure area can cause a sinking of 5mm. Scandinavia is rising by 1 cm a year as a result of the recession of the last ice age, but neighbouring Scotland is only rising by 0.2 cm. These changes are insignificant if a local datum is used. Wikipedia uses the global GPS datum so these changes are significant.
The width of one longitudinal degree on latitude \scriptstyle\,\! can be calculated by this formula (to get the width per minute and second, divide by 60 and 3600, respectively):
where Earth's average meridional radius \scriptstyle\,\! approximately equals 6,367,449 m. Due to the average radius value used, this formula is of course not precise. You can get a better approximation of a longitudinal degree on latitude \scriptstyle\,\! by:
where Earth's equatorial and polar radii, \scriptstyle\,\! equal 6,378,137 m, 6,356,752.3 m, respectively.

Datums often encountered

Latitude and longitude values can be based on several different geodetic systems or datums, the most common being the WGS 84 used by all GPS equipment, and by Wikipedia. Other datums however are significant because they were chosen by national cartographical organisation as the best method for representing their region, and these are the datum used on printed maps. Using the latitude and longitude found on a map, will not give the same reference as on a GPS receiver. Coordinates from the mapping system can be sometimes be changed into another datum using a simple translation. For example to convert from ETRF89 (GPS) to the Irish Grid by 49m to the east, and subtracting 23.4m from the north. More generally one datum is changed into any other datum using a process called Helmert transformations. This involves, converting the spherical coordinates into Cartesian coordinates and applying a seven parameter transformation (a translation and 3D- rotation), and converting back.
In popular GIS software, data projected in latitude/longitude is often specified via a 'Geographic Coordinate System'. For example, data in latitude/longitude with the datum as the North American Datum of 1983 is denoted by 'GCS_North_American_1983'.

Geostationary coordinates

Geostationary satellites (e.g., television satellites ) are over the equator. So, their position related to Earth is expressed in longitude degrees. Their latitude does not change, and is always zero over the equator.


graticule in Tosk Albanian: Geografische Lage
graticule in Amharic: የምድር መጋጠሚያ ውቅር
graticule in Arabic: إحداثيات جغرافية
graticule in Asturian: Sistema de Coordenaes Xeográfiques
graticule in Bengali: ভৌগলিক স্থানাঙ্ক ব্যবস্থা
graticule in Belarusian: Геаграфічныя каардынаты
graticule in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Геаграфічныя каардынаты
graticule in Bavarian: Geografische Koordinatn
graticule in Bulgarian: Географски координати
graticule in Cebuano: Koordineyt heyograpikal
graticule in Czech: Zeměpisné souřadnice
graticule in German: Geographische Koordinaten
graticule in Dhivehi: Geographic coordinate system
graticule in Estonian: Geograafilised koordinaadid
graticule in Modern Greek (1453-): Γεωγραφικές συντεταγμένες
graticule in Spanish: Coordenadas geográficas
graticule in Esperanto: Geografia koordinata sistemo
graticule in Basque: Sare geografiko
graticule in Persian: دستگاه مختصات جغرافیایی
graticule in French: Coordonnées géographiques
graticule in Western Frisian: Geografyske koördinaten
graticule in Scottish Gaelic: Co-chomharran an Domhain
graticule in Galician: Sistema de Coordenadas Xeográficas
graticule in Gujarati: અક્ષાંશ-રેખાંશ
graticule in Korean: 지리 좌표계
graticule in Croatian: Zemljopisne koordinate
graticule in Iloko: Heograpikal a nagsasabtan
graticule in Indonesian: Sistem koordinat geografi
graticule in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Systema geographic de coordinatas
graticule in Icelandic: Hnit (landafræði)
graticule in Italian: Coordinate geografiche
graticule in Javanese: Sistem koordinat geografi
graticule in Georgian: გეოგრაფიული კოორდინატები
graticule in Swahili (macrolanguage): Anwani ya kijiografia
graticule in Lao: ພິກັດພູມສາດ
graticule in Latin: Coordinata geographica
graticule in Ligurian: Coordinæ geografiche
graticule in Lombard: Cuurdinat geugrafich
graticule in Hungarian: Földrajzi koordináta-rendszer
graticule in Macedonian: Географски координатен систем
graticule in Malayalam: ജ്യോഗ്രഫിക് കോഓര്‍ഡിനേറ്റ് സിസ്റ്റം
graticule in Dutch: Geografische coördinaten
graticule in Dutch Low Saxon: Geografische koördinaoten
graticule in Japanese: 測地系
graticule in Neapolitan: Sëštém d'u cördënazjôn gjögrafëxë
graticule in Norwegian: Jordens koordinatsystem
graticule in Piemontese: Coordinà geogràfiche
graticule in Low German: Geograafsche Laag
graticule in Polish: Współrzędne geograficzne
graticule in Portuguese: Coordenadas geográficas
graticule in Romanian: Coordonate geografice
graticule in Quechua: Tinkurachina siwi
graticule in Russian: Географические координаты
graticule in Albanian: Koordinatat gjeografike
graticule in Simple English: Geographic coordinate system
graticule in Slovak: Geografický súradnicový systém
graticule in Slovenian: Geografski koordinatni sistem
graticule in Serbian: Географске координате
graticule in Serbo-Croatian: Geografski koordinatni sistem
graticule in Sundanese: Sistim koordinat géografi
graticule in Swedish: Jordens koordinatsystem
graticule in Tamil: புவியியல் ஆள்கூற்று முறை
graticule in Thai: พิกัดภูมิศาสตร์
graticule in Vietnamese: Hệ tọa độ địa lý
graticule in Turkish: Coğrafi koordinat sistemi
graticule in Turkmen: Koordinatlar
graticule in Ukrainian: Географічні координати
graticule in Venetian: Cordinade giogràfeghe
graticule in Volapük: Koordinatasit taledavik
graticule in Vlaams: Geografische coördinoatn
graticule in Contenese: 地理座標系統
graticule in Chinese: 经纬度
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