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Coordinate Systems

  • By: Peter H. Dana
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Coordinate systems describe positions in space with one or more numbers. Coordinates can specify position as distance along a route, distance and direction from an origin, the intersection of two axes on a plane, the intersection of three axes in space, the intersection of spherical or ellipsoidal angles on the surface of the Earth, range circle or sphere intersections, a combination of vertical height and horizontal angles, or location with respect to celestial objects at a specified date and time.

Coordinate systems are sometimes called absolute methods of specifying location, as opposed to relative methods such as street addresses or proximity to landmarks. For the most part, coordinate systems can be converted, with some degree of uncertainty, from one coordinate system to another.

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