ایرانیان باستان کنگدژ، مابین سیستان و خراسان قدیم در عرض سیوسهونیم درجه شمالی از استوا را نصفالنهار مبدأ (نود درجه) قرار دادند. این ناحیه را نیمروز (به معنی نصفالنهار) گفته شده است و این ناحیه دقیقاً وسط چین و اروپا و همه سرزمینهای مسکون شناخته شده آنروز است و از جانب شمال-جنوب نیز از این حیث در میانه میافتد.
در دورهای از شکوفایی علمی اسلام در راستای مطالعات نجوم اسلامی، نصفالنهار مکه (کعبه) نیز بعنوان نصفالنهار مبدأ قلمداد میشده است.[نیازمند منبع]
اروپاییان تا آخر سده هفدهم میلادی، جزایر خالدات و سپس پاریس را مبدأ نصف النهارها قرار دادند.
در سال ۱۸۸۴، در نشست بینالمللی نصفالنهار تصمیم گرفته شد که نصفالنهاری که از گرینویچ میگذرد، نصفالنهار مبدأ (نصفالنهار صفر) به شمار آید؛ و با انتخاب نصفالنهار مبدأ بقیهٔ نصفالنهارها بر اساس محلشان نسبت به نصفالنهار مبدأ به نصفالنهار شرقی و غربی تقسیم شدند. از آن پس تاکنون این نصفالنهار، نصفالنهار مبدأ میباشد.
A prime meridian is ultimately arbitrary, unlike an equator, which is determined by the axis of rotation—and various conventions have been used or advocated in different regions and throughout history. The most widely used modern meridian is the IERS Reference Meridian. It is derived but deviates slightly from the Greenwich Meridian, which was selected as an international standard in 1884.
Longitudes for the Earth and Moon are measured from their prime meridian at 0° to 180° east and to 180° west. For all other Solar System bodies, longitude is measured from 0° (their prime meridian) to 360°. West longitudes are used if the rotation of the body is direct, that is, it follows the right hand rule. East longitudes are used if the rotation is retrograde.
Ptolemy used as his basis the "Fortunate Isles", a group of islands in the Atlantic which are usually associated with the Canary Islands (13° to 18°W), although his maps correspond more closely to the Cape Verde islands (22° to 25° W). The main point is to be comfortably west of the western tip of Africa (17.5° W) as negative numbers were not yet in use. His prime meridian corresponds to 18° 40' west of Winchester (about 20°W) today. At that time the chief method of determining longitude was by using the reported times of lunar eclipses in different countries.
Ptolemy's Geographia was first printed with maps at Bologna in 1477, and many early globes in the 16th century followed his lead. But there was still a hope that a "natural" basis for a prime meridian existed. Christopher Columbus reported (1493) that the compass pointed due north somewhere in mid-Atlantic, and this fact was used in the important Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 which settled the territorial dispute between Spain and Portugal over newly discovered lands. The Tordesillas line was eventually settled at 370 leagues west of Cape Verde. This is shown in Diogo Ribeiro's 1529 map. São Miguel Island (25.5°W) in the Azores was still used for the same reason as late as 1594 by Christopher Saxton, although by then it had been shown that the zero magnetic deviation line did not follow a line of longitude.
In 1541, Mercator produced his famous 41 cm terrestrial globe and drew his prime meridian precisely through Fuerteventura (14°1'W) in the Canaries. His later maps used the Azores, following the magnetic hypothesis. But by the time that Ortelius produced the first modern atlas in 1570, other islands such as Cape Verde were coming into use. In his atlas longitudes were counted from 0° to 360°, not 180°W to 180°E as is usual today. This practice was followed by navigators well into the 18th century. In 1634, Cardinal Richelieu used the westernmost island of the Canaries, Ferro, 19° 55' west of Paris, as the choice of meridian. The geographer Delisle decided to round this off to 20°, so that it simply became the meridian of Paris disguised.
Used between 1469–1495; introduced by Regiomontanus, used by Marcin Bylica, Galeotto Marzio, Miklós Erdélyi (1423–1473), Johannes Tolhopff (c. 1445–1503), Johannes Muntz. Set in the royal castle (and observatory) of Buda.
 Between 1464 and 1667, a prime meridian was set in the Fortress of Oradea (Varadinum at the time) by Georg von Peuerbach. In his logbook Columbus stated, he had one copy of Tabulae Varadienses on board to calculate the actual meridian based on the position of the Moon, in correlation to Várad. Amerigo Vespucci also recalled, how was he acquired the knowledge to calculate meridians by means of these tables.
The position of the Greenwich Meridian has been defined by the location of the Airy Transit Circle ever since the first observation was taken with it by Sir George Airy in 1851. Prior to that, it was defined by a succession of earlier transit instruments, the first of which was acquired by the second Astronomer Royal, Edmond Halley in 1721. It was set up in the extreme north-west corner of the Observatory between Flamsteed House and the Western Summer House. This spot, now subsumed into Flamsteed House, is roughly 43 metres to the west of the Airy Transit Circle, a distance equivalent to roughly 0.15 seconds of time. It was Airy's transit circle that was adopted in principle (with French delegates, who pressed for adoption of the Paris meridian abstaining) as the Prime Meridian of the world at the 1884 International Meridian Conference.
All of these Greenwich meridians were located via an astronomic observation from the surface of the Earth, oriented via a plumb line along the direction of gravity at the surface. This astronomic Greenwich meridian was disseminated around the world, first via the lunar distance method, then by chronometers carried on ships, then via telegraph lines carried by submarine communications cables, then via radio time signals. One remote longitude ultimately based on the Greenwich meridian using these methods was that of the North American Datum 1927 or NAD27, an ellipsoid whose surface best matches mean sea level under the United States.
Beginning in 1973 the International Time Bureau and later the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service changed from reliance on optical instruments like the Airy Transit Circle to techniques such as lunar laser ranging, satellite laser ranging, and very-long-baseline interferometry. The new techniques resulted in the IERS Reference Meridian, the plane of which passes through the centre of mass of the Earth. This differs from the plane established by the Airy transit, which is affected by vertical deflection (the local vertical is affected by influences such as nearby mountains). The change from relying on the local vertical to using a meridian based on the centre of the Earth caused the modern prime meridian to be 5.3" east of the astronomic Greenwich prime meridian through the Airy Transit Circle. At the latitude of Greenwich, this amounts to 102 metres. This was officially accepted by the Bureau International de l'Heure (BIH) in 1984 via its BTS84 (BIH Terrestrial System) that later became WGS84 (World Geodetic System 1984) and the various ITRFs (International Terrestrial Reference Systems).
Due to the movement of Earth's tectonic plates, the line of 0° longitude along the surface of the Earth has slowly moved toward the west from this shifted position by a few centimetres; that is, towards the Airy Transit Circle (or the Airy Transit Circle has moved toward the east, depending on your point of view) since 1984 (or the 1960s). With the introduction of satellite technology, it became possible to create a more accurate and detailed global map. With these advances there also arose the necessity to define a reference meridian that, whilst being derived from the Airy Transit Circle, would also take into account the effects of plate movement and variations in the way that the Earth was spinning.
As a result, the International Reference Meridian was established and is commonly used to denote Earth's prime meridian (0° longitude) by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, which defines and maintains the link between longitude and time. Based on observations to satellites and celestial compact radio sources (quasars) from various coordinated stations around the globe, Airy's transit circle drifts northeast about 2.5 centimetres per year relative to this Earth-centred 0° longitude.
As on the Earth, prime meridians must be arbitrarily defined. Often a landmark such as a crater is used; other times a prime meridian is defined by reference to another celestial object, or by magnetic fields.
The prime meridians of the following planetographic systems have been defined:
Defined in 1992, the prime meridian of Venus passes through the central peak in the crater Ariadne.
The prime meridian of the Moon lies directly in the middle of the face of the moon visible from Earth and passes near the crater Bruce.
The prime meridian of Mars was established in 1971 and passes through the center of the crater Airy-0, although it is fixed by the longitude of the Viking 1 lander, which is defined to be 47°.95137 west.
Jupiter has several coordinate systems because its cloud tops—the only part of the planet visible from space—rotate at different rates depending on latitude. It is unknown whether Jupiter has any internal solid surface that would enable a more Earth-like coordinate system. System I and System II coordinates are based on atmospheric rotation, and System III coordinates use Jupiter's magnetic field.
Titan, like the Earth's moon, always has the same face towards Saturn, and so the middle of that face is 0 longitude.
Pluto's prime meridian is defined as the center of the face that is always pointed towards Charon, its largest moon, as the two are tidally locked towards each other.
^Archimal, B. A.; et al. ( ) (2015), Report of the IAU Working Group on Cartographic Coordinates and Rotational Elements: 2015(PDF), p. 27 of 46, The range of longitudes shall extend from 0° to 360°. Thus, west longitudes are used when the rotation is direct, and east longitudes are used when the rotation is retrograde. ... The Earth, Sun, and Moon do not traditionally follow this definition. Their rotations are direct and longitudes run both east and west 180°, or positive to the east 360°.
^When Tolhopff handed over his book, titled Stellarium (1480) to king Matthias Corvinus, he emphasized that he had used the meridian of Buda for his calculations. The German physician, Johannes Müntz used it the same way in his 1495 calendar. However, in the second edition, he had already introduced the Vienna meridian. Zsoldos, Endre – Zsupán, Edina: Stellarium – egy csillagászati kódex Mátyás könyvtárában. Orpheus Noster V. évf. 2013/4. 62–85.; Szathmáry, László: Az asztrológia, alkémia és misztika Mátyás király udvarában. In: Ponticulus Hungaricus, VI. évfolyam 5. szám · 2002.
^Oradea, Tourism office website, retrieved 3 February 2015.
^Maimonides, Hilchot Kiddush Hachodesh 11:17, calls this point אמצע היישוב, "the middle of the habitation", i.e. the habitable hemisphere. Evidently this was a convention accepted by Arab geographers of his day.
^Davies, M. E.; Colvin, T. R.; Rogers, P. G.; Chodas, P. G.; Sjogren, W. L. ; Akim, W. L.; Stepanyantz, E. L.; Vlasova, Z. P.; and Zakharov, A. I.; "The Rotation Period, Direction of the North Pole, and Geodetic Control Network of Venus", Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 97, no. 8, 1992, pp. 1–14, 151
^Davies, M. E., and Berg, R. A.; "Preliminary Control Net of Mars", Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 76, no. 2, 10 January 1971, pp. 373–393
^Archinal, Brent A.; Acton, C. H.; A’Hearn, Michael F.; Conrad, Albert R.; et al. (2018), "Report of the IAU Working Group on Cartographic Coordinates and Rotational Elements: 2015", Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy, 130 (22), doi:10.1007/s10569-017-9805-5