If I'm on a life boat, in the middle of the ocean, radioing another ship to come pick me up - I'd say something like "I'm 40 kilometers directly east of you."

In space, it's not that easy. How do you give a direction?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ By the distance to the Neutral Zone :-) . (the point is that the StarTrek universe was really bad at identifying orientations and locations) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft I have always wondered that! $\endgroup$
    – user15217
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 1:05

1 Answer 1


You need to define an agreed standard for orientation of axis and origin.

What co-ordinate system you choose as a standard depends on your purpose.

Here are some examples and links : Celestial coordinate systems.

Typical reference points are defined using very distant objects whose position can be measured accurately ( typically quasars ).

  • $\begingroup$ Within solar system, adding some local objects like Earth Venus and Mars relative to your distant objects should increase accuracy greatly. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 17:00

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