The National Geodetic Survey (part of the National Ocean Service) measures and monitors our ever-changing planet by mapping its gravity field and determining the precise location of points on Earth’s surface. Measurements of the Earth contribute to a wide range of important activities, including mapping and charting, navigation, flood risk determination, transportation, land use, and ecosystem management.
Mount Everest, located in Nepal and Tibet, is usually said to be the highest mountain on Earth. Reaching 8,848 meters at its summit, Everest is indeed the highest point above global mean sea level—the average level for the ocean surface from which elevations are measured. But the summit of Mt. Everest is not the farthest point from Earth’s center.
Earth is not a perfect sphere, but is a bit thicker at the Equator due to the centrifugal force created by the planet’s constant rotation. Because of this, the highest point above Earth’s center is the peak of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, located just one degree south of the Equator where Earth’s bulge is greatest. The summit of Chimborazo is 6,268 meters above sea level. However, due to the Earth’s bulge, the summit of Chimborazo is over 2,072 meters farther from the center of the Earth than Everest’s peak. That makes Chimborazo the closest point on Earth to the stars.
You may be surprised to learn that Everest is not the tallest mountain on Earth, either. That honor belongs to Mauna Kea, a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea originates deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, and rises more than 10,210 meters from base to peak.