Saturday, October 19, 2013

Directions in Space: How Do Astronauts Determine Where the are When in Space?

North, South, East, and West are Earth related directions that are determined by the planet's magnetic field, but with no planet in space to guide them, how can scientists figure out directions beyond Earth's atmosphere? To answer this question, it's important to realize that directions are completely arbitrary human inventions that hold no real scientific significance. In short, directions exist solely to make our lives easier when navigating through the space in which we all live. You could reverse the definitions of all our directional terms tomorrow (so North means South and vice versa) and, with the exception of a few very confused people, we'd have no adverse affects--there would be no changes to how science operates.

However, to answer the real question, the method we use for finding directions in space (yes, we do have Northern and Southern Hemispheres for the universe /galaxy/solar system) is related to the directions we have on Earth. So, how did these directions come about?

To read the full article, see:

image source: NASA creativecommons

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