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The damaged spaceship—it looked like a human one but not quite—descended over the Atlantic, then hovered over the Gulf of Guinea, right on the equator. The location surprised everyone except us cartographers. We chuckled and made jokes about Null Island, at 0° latitude and 0° longitude.

“No,” said the leader of the contact team. “It’s on the equator, but it’s at 2°20′ East.”

I thought for a moment about prime meridians. “Better send someone who speaks French.”

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