Saturday, August 30, 2014


Gonna do some errands then drive on down the shore to meet my family for dinner and amusement park rides. But while I’ve been getting ready, one thing has been tugging at my mind all morning:

Coordinate systems for interstellar travel

That’s right. How will we navigate when we fly among the stars and between the galaxies?

In the early days of sea-going man, at the dawn of history, you’d pilot your boat keeping land in sight. Later, you’d be able to know where you where by how far the stars were above the horizon. (That tells you your latitude on the globe; longitude is a whole nother thing.) Nowadays, we have satellites in geo-synchronous orbit – that means they never move from hovering above the same spot of terrestrial ground 22,000 miles or so up. By communicating and triangulating with these satellites and a receiver on earth, you can know your exact location to within a meter.

But how about in space, beyond the geosynchronous geostationary satellites?

I guess for Solar System travel you have the Earth and, even better, the Sun. The Earth rotates about the Sun as we all know, but for Solar System traveling, you can assume the Sun to be your anchor.

What if you travel beyond the Solar System?

Do you use the center of the Milky Way as a reference point?

What if you travel beyond the Milky Way galaxy?

Can there be some ultimate reference point? What does Captain Picard and Stellar Cartography aboard the Enterprise use to navigate known space in the 23rd century?


Something to ponder when I sit in Parkway traffic this afternoon.

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