Are people in New Zealand upside down compared to people in the United States? I mean, as I write this, am I standing—well, actually sitting—upside down like one of those stick figures on a globe in some children’s book?
And if I am, then why don’t I slowly lose my purchase on the Earth’s surface and drop off the bottom of the Earth into the black abyss that surrounds the planet?
Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I am upside down compared to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, but only as much as any of you in the Northern Hemisphere are also upside down. As I’m sure you understand, there is no up or down in space, and all people living on the Earth point outward at a ninety degree angles from the specific location on the Earth on which they are standing. Indeed, the Earth is like a plant with people instead of bristles all pointing outward toward space in various directions.
And it’s completely arbitrary that the Northern Hemisphere is generally placed on the tops of globes and most maps, or that the north direction has more significance than south.
Living down here, I feel there should be some sort of equal rights movement where the Southern Hemisphere is given fair and equal representation on all maps and in all global depictions, perhaps half the time showing us on top and half the time, the Northern Hemisphere on top. What do you think?
But back to the second question, what keeps me, you or anybody from dropping off into space? The answer to that is obviously that dastardly force, gravity, which also accounts for some of our ever-increasing weights on this planet.
But some things are upside down here compared to the Northern Hemisphere.
The first most obvious one is the seasons. They are reversed. June, July and August is our winter down here, and December, January, February is summer. This is of course due to the tilt of the Earth. The Southern Hemisphere tilts more towards the sun from September until March, and tilts more away from the sun from March back to September.
Does the sun rise in the east and set in the west like it does in the Northern Hemisphere? Yes, it does. Seen from above, from the North Pole, the Earth rotates clockwise, hence the sun, which is stationary appears to rise in the east and set in the west for everyone anywhere on Earth.
But seen from down here, the sun rises in the east, to the right, and makes an arc across the northern sky. In Colorado, where we came from, the sun also rises in the east, to one’s right, but makes an arc across the southern sky. During our summer down here, the sun rises farther south of east and sets farther south of west, while in the Northern Hemisphere summer, the sun rises and sets north of east and west. The opposite of the Northern Hemisphere is true down here in the winter. On days in the middle of winter here, the sun makes only a low arc across the northern sky, rather than across the southern sky like from where we lived in Colorado. People here prefer to have their houses face north to take advantage of the sun, while people back in Colorado prefer to have south-facing houses.
Are the days as long here in the summer and as short here in winter as they were in Colorado Springs? Well, again as you probably know, that has to do with one’s latitude. Since Tauranga’s latitude (S 37.68 degrees) is fairly close to that of Colorado Springs (N 38.86 degrees), the day lengths are fairly similar.
How about the moon? Is that the same? Well, yes and no. First, the moon is in the northern sky here rather than the southern sky. The northern sky is where all the action is here with regards celestial ecliptic objects: sun, moon, planets and zodiac constellations. But the moon is reversed and inverted; any so-called man in the moon you might see doesn’t look quite right. Also, for example, when you look at the rising crescent moon here, the horns of the crescent are pointing up and toward the right here, as opposed to pointing toward the left back in Colorado.
What about the stars? What do the stars look like from down here? Well, first, there are a whole group of stars here that you can’t see from the Northern Hemisphere, and a whole group that you can see from Colorado Springs that you can’t see here. In Colorado Springs, you can see the northern polar stars, which includes the Big and Little Dippers with Polaris pointing directly north. You can’t see any of those from here, but instead you can see the southern polar stars, the stars that circle around the South Pole, the most famous of these being the Southern Cross constellation.
How about the stars that circle more or less around the center of the globe, like Orion and the zodiac constellations, stuff we can see from both Colorado Springs and from here. When a given constellation will appear in the night sky when comparing one place to another depends on the longitudes of the two locations. If two locations are at the same longitude and one is in the Northern Hemisphere and one is in the Southern Hemisphere, the constellations, provided they can be seen from both locations, will rise at the same time in both locations.
Colorado Springs is at longitude of 104 degrees west, and Tauranga is at longitude of 176 degrees east so 80 degrees of longitude separate us. Even so, these are close enough so that a constellation like Orion is a summer sky constellation here while in the United States it is a winter sky constellation.
But what does Orion the Hunter look like from down here? He is upside down and inverted from the way he looks in the Northern Hemisphere.
Shortly after I had just arrived here, I tactlessly pointed this out to a campground ranger, the fact that Orion was upside down.
“No, it’s not,” he said.
I understood and left it at that. Part of my Southern Hemisphere diversity acceptance program.