Great circle, terrestrial
Chang, Kang-tsung Department of Geography, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho.
Last reviewed:November 2019
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A circle or near-circle representing a trace on the Earth's surface of a plane that passes through the center of the Earth and divides it into equal halves (Fig. 1). The Equator is a great circle, the trace of the plane that bisects and is perpendicular to the Earth's axis. Planes through the Poles cut the Earth along meridians. All meridians are great circles; actually, they are not quite circular because of the slightly flattened Earth. The equatorial diameter is 1.0034 times the size of the polar diameter. All parallels other than the Equator are called small circles, being smaller than a great circle.
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