In other words, does everything spin counterclockwise according to their axes (in relation to each other)? I suppose my question goes for stars, moons and other objects too.

But then again, all you have to do is look at any rotation upside down and it goes clockwise. So depending how you're looking at it, one could say everything rotates in the same direction whether they do or not. It's all a matter of perspective, right? And in space, there is no "right side up". Maybe my question is moot now that I think about it.

If we re-drew all of Earth's maps and globes upside down, New York or Sydney would be on the "west coast" and the Sun would rise in the "west" and set in the "east". Is it just by luck or maybe by the prominent early mapmakers, or that the majority of human population lives in the Northern Hemisphere, that it's given "dominance" on "top"? (I've heard that theory before)

Ugh. This is all so confusing.


1 Answer 1


This Q can be split into two:

  1. Do all the planets in a stellar system always rotate around the star[s] in the same direction as the star[s] itself/themselves?

Question #1 is a duplicate of Why do (most of) the planets rotate counterclockwise, i.e. the same way the Sun does?. As you mentioned, calling it counter-clockwise is simply due to the convention of North on top.

  1. How did the convention of North being the top of maps and globes get established?

Question #2 is about earth science history or the history of cartography. I encourage you to ask that as a separate Q either on the Earth Science Stack Exchange or on the Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange.

In many cultures, East was/is put on top, as a nod to the rising sun. I imagine if the convention had come from the Southern hemisphere, South or East would have ended up on top.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ One of my favorite little skits on mapping. Not all that related, but it made me chuckle. youtube.com/watch?v=eLqC3FNNOaI (I didn't know about Maps with East being up, that's interesting.) $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 3:12

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