How To Read GPS Coordinates Easily? [Complete Guide]

Have you ever wondered How To Read GPS Coordinates?

How do we get to know the exact location of the place we want to reach or where someone is just by using our smartphones. Or how you can keep track of the site of your loved ones no matter where they go or how your cab driver finds you exactly where you are.

All this is done with the help of a well-organized and managed system called GPS.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System 

It consists of three parts which are satellites, receivers, and ground stations.

Basically, in laymen’s terms, it is a navigation system that determines the exact position of an object on Earth with the help of satellites.

So with the help of GPS, you can reach or find out any place on the globe by understanding some coordinates.

In this article, we will discuss How To Read GPS Coordinates.

This includes what they are, their units, and how ordinary people can read them by understanding some basic geographical terminology.

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Basic Terms

You might have read or heard How To Read GPS Coordinates in maps or movies.

They look like 

27°10’3027°10’30 N

72°02’3172°02’31 E

      OR

29°58’45.0329°58’45.03 N

31°8’03.6931°8’03.69 S

These coordinates include Degrees, Minutes, and Seconds respectively (might also have milliseconds, to be exact).GPS coordinates are expressed in degrees rather than distance because Earth is a Sphere and is divided or fractionated based on imaginary horizontal and vertical lines known as latitudes and longitudes, respectively.

These lines exist across West to East and North to South. To know about the best waterproof activity trackers you can buy, click here.  

Latitudes

The lines of latitude lie horizontally and are parallel throughout the globe; hence the distance between them remains constant.

The globe is horizontally bisected by an imaginary line called the Equator, halfway between the North and the South poles. 

Equator

The Equator is at 0° latitude and runs west to east.

The northern part of the Equator is the northern hemisphere, and the southern part is the southern hemisphere.

90° N of Equator lies the North pole, and 90° S the Equator lies the South pole. Know about the best WhatsApp spy software to monitor and track from this article!

Longitudes

The lines of longitudes start at the north pole and meet back at the south pole; hence they are all around the poles and farther around the Equator.

The globe is vertically bisected by an imaginary line called the prime meridian.

latitude and longitude
Latitude and longitude

It lies at 0° longitudes runs from North to south, dividing the spheroid into 2 Hemispheres. 

Prime Meridian

The Eastern part of the prime meridian is the eastern hemisphere, and the western part is the hemisphere of the West.

The prime meridian lies 180° north and south.

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Measurements

Each degree of latitude includes 60 minutes. The degrees of longitude and latitude are can be measured in Nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1.852 km)

A degree of latitude is equal to 60 nautical miles, i.e., each minute equals one nautical mile, which is constant as latitudes are parallel lines, and the same goes for longitude at the Equator. (note that the distance between degrees of longitude is not constant because they converge to towards the pole)  

Format

The popular format for reading and writing coordinates is DMS – Degrees Minutes and Seconds. This is one of the most crucial things to know if you want to know How To Read GPS Coordinates.

It is best to keep in mind that all the lines of latitude above the Equator with the letter’ letter’ N” indicate a north direction. All the lines below the Equator with the letter ”S” indicate the south direction.

Likewise, all the lines of longitude at the left of the prime meridian are written with the letter ”W” to indicate a west direction, and all the lines at the right of the prime meridian are registered with the letter ”E” to indicate East direction.

coordinates
Coordinates

Also, while writing directions, coordinates of latitudes are written first, followed by longitudes.

First degrees of coordinates are mentioned with a “°” followed by minutes and an apostrophe (”) and lastly seconds (milliseconds too for details) with a quotation mark (“) followed by direction.

Note that while writing latitudes, N (North) or S (south) is mentioned, and while writing longitudes, E (east) or W (West) is mentioned.

(Note that there can be other formats too for writing coordinates that might not include commas, but the order remains the same, i.e., Degrees-Minutes-Seconds)

EXAMPLE

Let’s take the example of Coordinates of White house, which are 38°58’51.61″38°58’51.61″ N, 77°02’11.58″77°02’11.58″ W.

Here, in latitudes, 38 degrees is actually 58 minutes and 51.61 seconds in North. Likewise, in longitudes, it is 77 degrees, 02 minutes, and 11.58 seconds in West.

GPS Accessories

The most popular and convenient way to find out and know How To Read GPS Coordinates is using Google Maps.

google maps
Google maps

It is the easiest way to locate any place on Earth just with the help of coordinates.

Other than that, GPS devices are also in various automobiles and aviation instruments.

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