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Name: Sean
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Country: Australia
Date: Fall 2012

Do we have a universal co-ordinate system? Simply North South East or West obviously would not work in space. My idea so far is that to now where you are you must have a reference point things like up, and down do not work in space because they come from our perception due to gravity. IS there a system for referencing where you are in the universe, other than naming what galaxy/ solar system etc.?

Hi Sean,

There are a variety of coordinate systems. Probably one better matching what you describe would be the Galactic Coordinate System(GCS).

For GCS, the Sun is the origin, and a line is passed through the galactic center as 0 longitude. This line, sweeps across the plane of the galaxy, its radii marked by the degrees longitude. 180 Long is roughly through Orion's Spur. The latitude is the arc radiating through and around the Sun, above the galactic plane. Coordinates that are positive are considered North, negative is South. Progression is right-handed.

The North Pole, +90 Lat is Coma Berenices, 0 Long is Sagittarius.

Hope this helps! Peter E. Hughes, Ph.D. Milford, NH

We do have a co-ordinate system for the universe. This has degrees, minutes and seconds (+ or -, i.e. North and South) for latitude, and "Right Ascension" (RA) in hours, minutes and seconds for longitude. Zero hours RA is, approximately, the March equinox. The only disadvantage in this system, is that it has to be updated every 50 years, because the equinoxes slowly move around the sky.

Regards, Howard Barnes


We have not yet decided on a "universal" coordinate system because we haven't had a need for it. However, we can imagine navigation and positioning can be achieved easily when the time comes that we travel in space as described in this Newton answers:

Greg (Roberto Gregorius) Canisius College


Please see this article about the Galactic Coordinate System.

Sincere regards, Mike Stewart

Astronomers use various coordinate systems. See, for example:

These might also be useful:

Joseph P. Bernstein

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