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|prime meridian |
The meridian with a longitude of 0°, adopted officially in 1884 as a reference line from which longitude east and west are measured and as a basis for standardized time zones. It passes through Greenwich, England, the site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, which was founded in 1675 and which closed except as a museum in 1998. The prime meridian, together with its opposite meridian having a longitude of 180°, divide the Earth roughly into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, with those portions of the British Isles, Europe, and Africa that lie west of the prime meridian, considered for practical purposes as belonging to the Eastern Hemisphere. See illustration at time zone.
imaginary line used to indicate 0 longitude that passes through Greenwich, a borough of London, and terminates at the North and South poles. An international conference held in Washington, D.C., in 1884 designated "the meridian passing through the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory of Greenwich as the initial meridian for longitude." The observatory (renamed the Royal Greenwich Observatory) was moved to Hailsham, East Sussex, during the 1950s, but the original site continues to serve as the location for 0 longitude.