The closest point to space on Earth is not Mount Everest. Rather it is Mount Chimborazo, a 20,000 plus foot mountain in the Andes.
All of those that have bravely climbed Mount Everest might have done so in vain – they weren’t climbing the world’s highest mountain after all, according to scientists.
The Himalayan mountain is actually beaten by Chimborazo, in Ecuador. But Everest still wins on the traditional metrics: it’s nearly 9,000m above sea level, thousands more than any of its closest rivals.
But it’s not actually the furthest up, or the closest to space. Ecuador’s mountain tops it on that measure, and it’s all because of the Earth’s funny shape.
Everest only wins when measured from sea level. But if instead, you measure out from the center of the Earth, Chimborazo wins easily – and Everest wouldn’t even get into the top 20 mountains.
The results come because the Earth isn’t a perfect sphere, but a squashed one that is flattened at the top and bottom and bulges out slightly in the middle.
That shape gives an advantage to any mountains that happen to lie along the equator. And Chimborazo is a beneficiary of that – it’s very close to the Earth’s bulging middle, while Everest is about a third of the way towards the top.