Saturday, January 21, 2012

Opposite Hemispheres

kw: geography, photographs, earth

It has been said that Earth is a water planet. If your first view of the planet was from the perspective on the left, that would be quite justified. This screen capture from Google Earth is centered above 17°S, 150°W, to the southwest of Tahiti. The other image is centered above the antipode, 17°N, 30°E, in central Sudan. Here, "Earth" is more fitting. A view a little more to the East would show an even higher proportion of land to water surface.

These virtual views are from a simulated altitude of about 10,000 miles, or 16,000 km, roughly halfway to geosynchronous orbit. From much farther away, you'd be able to see most of North America in the "water" view, and most of South America and Antarctica in the "land" view.

Interestingly, the name for our planetary home in every language I know of is related to or derived from the word for dirt ("earth" is the much older word in English, though), even in languages of Polynesia and other island societies. The ground you stand on is your principal frame of reference! If we ever decipher dolphin languages, I suspect they will call their environment by a word derived from "water".

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