How does latitude and longitude work?

What is a latitude?
When looking at a map, latitude lines run horizontally. Each degree of latitude is about 69 miles apart. Degrees latitude are numbered from 0° to 90° north and south. Zero degrees is the equator. 90° north is the North Pole and 90° south is the South Pole.
 
What is a longitude?
Longitude lines run vertically. Zero degrees longitude is located at Greenwich, England (0°). The degrees continue 180° east and 180° west.
 
How do they work together?
To locate points on the earth's surface, degrees longitude and latitude have been divided into minutes (') and seconds ("). There are 60 minutes in each degree. Each minute is divided into 60 seconds. 
Seconds can be further divided into tenths, hundredths, or even thousandths. 
 
For example, the U.S. Capitol is located at 38°53'23"N , 77°00'27"W 
(38 degrees, 53 minutes, and 23 seconds north of the equator and 77 degrees, no minutes and 27 seconds west of the meridian passing through Greenwich, England).
 
How do I find the coordinates for my special place?
Our favorite website for finding coordinates is http://www.satsig.net/maps/lat-long-finder.htm
You type the address, city or major landmark into the box that reads "center the map around" and click Go!. It then moves the center point of the map to the place you have indicated, and provides the coordinates for that point in two formats, decimals and degrees/minutes/seconds.
 
Which format should I use?
We can stamp most of our pieces with either format, though our preferred is degrees/minutes/seconds because we like the way it looks on most of our pieces. 
 
What does the negative sign before my coordinates mean?
There are two ways that the directions are shown on coordinates, N/S/E/W as letters or a -/+ sign before the set of coordinates. A negative latitude indicates south, and a negative longitude indicates west. Coordinates in the US will be north and west, so you might see that indicated with a negative longitude. 
 
Coordinates are never formatted with both a negative and a letter indicating direction. Putting a negative sign before your coordinates and a W after them would actually indicate east! 
 
Important!
When you give us your coordinates here on our website, the text box isn't going to recognize the degree symbol, you can simply omit it, and we will add it in for you automatically when we stamp your order. You can use an apostrophe to indicate minutes and quotes to indicate seconds.
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