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Name: Peter
Status: student
Grade: other
Country: New Zealand
Date: N/A 

I live in New Zealand (down under), when I look at my country from space we are indeed facing downward my question is why do I look up to see the sky, why do I NOT look out sideways to see it? Why, when your standing at the south pole you still look up to see the sky at the very bottom of the world as can clearly be seen from space?

Regardless of where we stand on the Earth, gravity attracts our body toward its center. "Our feet are on the ground." Because that is the "normal" configuration of our bodies with respect to the surface of the Earth -- more rigorously our center of gravity and the center of gravity of the Earth. If you lay down, you see the sky "overhead" by looking "straight ahead". And if you stand on your hands, you have to look "down" (that is, toward your feet) to see the sky "overhead". To be more precise, you have to look "over feet" to see the sky. But keep in mind that the stars that you do see by looking overhead changes with latitude. You see a different group of stars in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. You also see a different set of stars at different longitudes, at a given latitude. In common terms we see stars, planets, the moon etc. "rise" in the east and "set" in the west from dusk to dawn.

Vince Calder

Dear Peter,

This is a good question. The sky from the south pole is just like from any other spot, because there is really no up or down in space. You could observe for 6 months during its long winter night! But it would be cold.


David H. Levy

Well, the sky is everything out there in the universe. It is all around us: above, below, ahead, behind, to the right, and to the left. You don't see it only where the earth is in the way. Since the earth is below you, you will see the sky above you.

Are you asking why the earth is below you rather than above you, in the southern hemisphere? It is because "above" and "below" are not the same everywhere on earth. Your "up" is not the same direction as my "up." "Up and "down" are determined by the direction of the force of gravity, which pulls us toward the center of Earth. That is not the same direction for you and me, but we both consider that direction to be "down."

Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D., M.Ed.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming

Hi Peter

When looking at earth from outer space, you see a ball, and what you call the top of the ball depends on your orientation, or how you are looking at it. If you look at the ball while standing on your head, then the bottom of the ball looks like it is the top to you if you can block out all of the other visual cues telling you that you are standing on your head.

Plus, wherever you are standing on the ball, if you look down you will see the ground and if you look up you will see the sky. That is because of the geometry of the sphere.

Sincere regards,
Mike Stewart

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