The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Earth radius

Note: Earth radius is sometimes used as a unit of distance, especially in astronomy and geology. It is usually denoted by RE.

The radius of the Earth is the distance from the Earth's centre to its surface at mean sea level. The Earth is not a perfect sphere, but instead is somewhat flattened at the North and South Poles, and it bulges at the equator. This shape is known as an oblate spheroid. The Earth's non-spherical shape means that its radius differs depending on where you measure it.


Polar radius

The Earth's polar radius is the distance from its center to the North or South Pole, and is approximately 6,356.9 kilometres (3,950 statute miles) .

Equatorial radius

The Earth's equatorial radius is the distance from its centre to the equator, and is approximately 6,378.5 kilometres (3,963 miles).

Mean radius

The Earth's mean radius is approximately 6,371.3 kilometres (3,959 miles). This number is derived by averaging the centre-to-surface distances on all points on the globe. Equivalently, the mean radius is

r = \sqrt{\frac{A}{4\pi}},

where A is the surface area of Earth. This would be the radius of a hypothetical perfect sphere which had the same surface area as the Earth.

See also: Effective Earth radius

Quadratic mean radius

The quadratic mean radius (Qr) of an ellipsoid is a more accurate method of expressing the Earth's radius.

Q_r = \sqrt{\frac{3a^2 + b^2}{4}},

where a is the equatorial radius and b the polar radius.

For the Earth, a = 6,378.135 km, b = 6,356.75 km, and Qr = 6,372.795477598 km.

Last updated: 05-14-2005 21:38:31