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Oblate spheroid equations

  1. Aug 18, 2012 #1
    I'm a little confused by what appears to me to be a paradox. I understand that the equation for an oblate spheroid is given by
    \frac{x ^ 2+y^2}{a^2} + \frac{z ^ 2}{c^2}= 1, c < a
    where a and c are the semi-major and semi-minor axes respectively.
    However, the definitions for the WGS 84 oblate spheroid model of the Earth using the ECEF <--> geodetic latitude/longitude/height are (Wiki Link) the following equations
    x = N(\phi) cos\phi cos\lambda \\
    y = N(\phi) cos\phi sin\lambda \\
    z = N(\phi)(1-e^2) sin \phi \\
    N(\phi) = \frac{a}{\sqrt{1-e^2 sin^2\phi}}
    where [itex]\phi[/itex] is the geodetic latitude, [itex]\lambda[/itex] is the longitude, e is the eccentricity and a is the semi-major axis. I removed the height parameter as I am only concerned with the spheroid surface.

    I have also read a paper which states the equation relating the ECEF X,Y,Z is
    \frac{x ^ 2+y^2}{N(\phi)^2} + \frac{z ^ 2}{[N(\phi)(1-e^2)]^2}= 1

    The last equation has denominators that depends on the geodetic latitude while the first equation for the oblate spheroid has denominators which are constant. Is there something wrong?
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2012 #2


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    The equation you quote for an oblate spheroid uses geocentric latitude. I believe the equations on the Wiki page use geodetic latitude. There is a comment about that on the page you linked.
  4. Aug 19, 2012 #3
    Well yes, but isn't ECEF independent of geodetic/geocentric coordinates? Then in the last equation, this seems to suggest that x,y,z must fit a different equation for different geodetic latitudes.
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