Mt. Everest: the Highest Point on Earth?

Most of us learned early in life that Mt. Everest was the highest point on earth. Today the mountain is lusted after by adrenalin-hungry climbers looking to stand on the top of the world. But is Mt. Everest really the highest point on Earth?

It depends on how you look at it.

Because the Earth isn’t a perfect sphere, but actually an “oblate spheroid” — meaning it bulges at the equator — there’s another point on the planet that is actually closer to outer space than Mt. Everest: an inactive volcano in Ecuador, Mt. Chimborazo. Although the mountain stands almost 10,000 feet below Mt. Everest, the equatorial bulge extends its peak 1.5 miles further into space.

“If you define ‘highest’ as highest from sea level, Mount Everest is still champion,” says NPR’s Robert Krulwich. “But if you want to stand on the place on Earth that is closest to the moon, that would be Mount Chimborazo!”