What is the Circumference of the Earth? Calculation, Examples

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Circumference of the Earth: Introduction

Earth is the third planet from the sun and also the fifth-largest planet in the solar system. The term “circumference” commonly refers to the length of the boundary of a circle, but Earth is almost spherical in shape. So, what do we mean by the circumference of a sphere? Let’s find out. 

The circumference of Earth

What Is the Circumference of the Earth?

Although a sphere does not have a circumference, it has circular cross-sections, whose circumference can be calculated. Since the length of the radius varies as we move away from the sphere’s center, it is crucial to know which cross-section determines the circumference of the sphere. For that, you need to first determine the sphere’s great circle.

Center, radius, diameter and great circle of a sphere

Great Circle

The largest circle that can be created around a sphere is called a great circle. Every sphere has a great circle. A great circle is a cross section of a sphere that contains a diameter of the sphere. A sphere will be split perfectly in half if you cut it at one of its great circles. A great circle has the same center point and circumference as that of a sphere. 

The Earth also has many great circles. One of them is its equator. The Earth’s own radius is the radius of the great circle.

Equator is the great circle of Earth

The circumference of the great circle defines the sphere’s circumference.

Mathematically, the circumference of any great circle of a sphere = 2πR or πD,

where “R” is the sphere’s radius and “D” is its diameter.

Circumference of Earth at Equator

Do you know the Sun’s tremendous gravitational pull and Earth’s rotation causes it to bulge at the equator? This makes it somewhat of a squashed sphere. 

Earth’s shape

Earth, as we know now, is an oblate spheroid, as shown in the above figure. So, its circumference varies depending on how you calculate it. 

At the equator, the radius of Earth is 3963 miles (Diameter = 7926 miles).

Earth’s polar radius is 3950 miles (Diameter = 7900 miles).

Polar and Equatorial circumference of the Earth

Circumference of the Earth in Meters

When measured around the equator, the circumference of the Earth is 40.075 million meters.

On the other hand, it is 40.008 million meters when measured from the North Pole to the South Pole. 

Circumference of the Earth in Kilometers (km)

When measured around the equator, the circumference of the Earth is 40,075 km.

It is 40,008 km when measured from the North Pole to the South Pole.

Circumference of the Earth in Miles

When measured around the equator, the circumference of the Earth is roughly 24,902 miles, whereas it is approximately 24,860 miles from the north pole to the South Pole.

Circumference of the Earth in Feet

When measured around the equator, the circumference of the Earth is 131,477,280 feet.

It is 131,260,800 feet when measured from the North Pole to the South Pole.

Method to Calculate the Earth’s Circumference

We can use a mathematical formula to find the circumference of the Earth as follows: 

Circumference of Earth at the equator (CE):

CE = π × D

      = 3.14 × 7926  

      = 24,887.64 miles (which is close to 24,901 miles)

Circumference of Earth around the poles (CP):

CP = π × D

      = 3.14 × 7900 

      = 24,806 miles

Fun Facts

  •  Earth’s shape, caused by the flattening at the poles, is known as an oblate spheroid. So, its diameter at the equator is bigger than that at its polar regions.
  • The average distance between the Sun and Earth is 92,935,700 miles.
  • The diameter of the Sun is 109 times as great as Earth’s diameter.
  • One of the ways of calculating the circumference is the geometric method employed more than 2000 years ago. It was used by Eratosthenes, the chief librarian of Alexandria in Egypt, to calculate the circumference of the Earth in 200 BCE. He arrived at the estimated figure of 28,738 miles. It is fairly close to the real value of 24,901 miles.
Eratothenes

Conclusion

The circumference of the Earth varies depending on the length of its diameter at the equator and the poles. It is about 40,075 km around the equator and about 40,008 km from the North Pole to the South Pole. 

The Greek mathematician Eratosthenes first calculated the Earth’s circumference with the help of a well, sunrays, and a stick. Now, it is calculated using the mathematical formula of 2πR or πD.

Knowing how to calculate Earth’s circumference is important because it serves as a base for understanding complex circumference problems in higher classes.

Solved Examples

1. What is the circumference of the planet Venus if its diameter is 7520.8 miles? (Take π as 3.14.)

Solution: The diameter of Venus = 7520.8 miles 

Circumference (C) = π D.

Now, by substituting the value of diameter (D) in the formula, we will get 

C = 3.14 × 7520.8 = 23,615.31

Therefore, the circumference of Venus = 23,615.31 miles.

2. Find the circumference of the Sun, assuming that its diameter is 865,370 miles. (Use 3.14 as the value of π.)

Solution: Diameter of the Sun = 865,370 miles

Circumference (C) = π D 

Circumference of the Sun = 3.14 × 865,370 = 2,717,261.8 

Therefore, the circumference of the Sun = 2,717,261.8 miles.

3. Calculate the radius of the Earth if its circumference is 24,887.64 miles. (Take π as 3.14.)

Solution: The formula for circumference (C) = πD or 2πR 

Given, C = 24,887.64 

2πR = 24,887.64 

Therefore, the radius of Earth (R) = 24,887.642 3.14 = 3963 miles.

4. Find the circumference of a soccer ball whose great circle has a diameter of 15 inches.

A soccer ball

Solution:  The circumference (C) of the soccer ball will be:

C = πD 

= 3.14 × 15

= 47.1 inches

Therefore, the circumference of the soccer ball = 47.1 inches.

5. The radius of a circular pizza is 30 inches. Find its circumference.

Solution:  Circumference of a circle (C) = πD

D = 2R 

By using the above formulas, we will get,

D = 2 x 30 = 60 inches

C = 3.14 x 60 = 188.4 inches

Therefore, the circumference of the pizza is 188.4 inches.

Practice Problems

What is the Circumference of the Earth? Calculation, Examples

Attend this quiz & Test your knowledge.

1

The ratio of the circumference of Jupiter to the Earth is given as 10:1. What will be the ratio of the diameter of the Earth to Jupiter?

5:1
2:1
10:1
8:1
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: 10:1
Circumference $= πD$
Ratio of circumferences $= πD$$\text{(Jupiter):πD(Earth)} = 10:1$
Therefore, ratio of diameters $= D$$\text{(Jupiter):D(Earth)} = 10:1$
2

The circumference of the Earth in miles is $\underline{}$

24,860
24,870
24,880
24,890
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: 24,860
Earth’s circumference in miles is roughly 24,860.
3

At the equator, the radius of the Earth is

3900 miles
4963 miles
3963 miles
4963 miles
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: 3963 miles
At the equator, the radius of Earth is 3963 miles.
4

The circumference of the Earth at the equator (CE) is $\underline{}$ .

24,801 miles
24,901 miles
133,477,280 feet
137,477,280 feet
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: 24,901 miles
The circumference of the Earth at the equator (CE) is approximately 24,901 miles.
5

The diameter of the bigger circle is 9 times the circumference of the smaller circle with a radius of 5 feet. Calculate the circumference of the bigger circle.

$90π$ feet
$180π$ feet
$180π^2$ feet
$90π^2$ feet
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: $90π^2$ feet
Circumference (C) $= 2π$R
C (smaller circle) $= 2 \times 5 \times π$ feet $= 10π$ feet.
D (bigger circle) $= 9 \times$ $\text{C} \text{(smaller circle)} = 9 \times 10π$ feet $= 90π$ feet.
C (bigger circle) $= 90π \times π = 90π^2$ feet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pi is an irrational number that denotes the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Along with the diameter, it helps in calculating the average circumference of the Earth.

Diameter refers to a segment that passes through the center of a sphere or circle from one side to the other.

A radius refers to a straight line from the center of a sphere or a circle to its surface or circumference.

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