March 4, 2010

A teacher wrote to me this week asking a good question.

When some of my students were using your book entitled Oceans, we noticed that the NASA photo located on page 4 was published upside down.  It is a photo of the Earth from space and Antarctica is at the top of the page. Was this a mistake?

Simon,  Seymour. OCEANS. New York: Collins/Smithsonian, 1990, pg4.

There is no "top" of the Earth in space. There IS a north and south pole but it’s not that the north pole is on "top" and the south pole is on "bottom." In space, it all depends upon one’s orientation. The customary way that the maps are published is that North is at the top of the map and South is at the bottom. But that’s only a convention. If the Southern Hemisphere had been publishing Earth maps before the Europeans got around to doing the maps, the South Pole might very well have been on "top."

The map in my book is printed exactly the way it was released for publication by NASA. It is not an error.

Your students have very sharp eyes - good question! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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