Why is There No Up and Down in Space?

This is a question that has a bit of weight to it, and there is no straightforward answer to it. There is an up and down in space, but perhaps not in the way that you might expect.

As you have probably guessed, being in space and being on Earth are both very different experiences, which means that things like up and down are also going to be very different. 

The only way to determine the direction in space is by looking at gravity, and though it works differently on Earth, the concept is still the same.

To figure out the ups and downs in space, gravity is the key to finding the answer. We are going to explain everything that you need to know about gravity and the concept of up and down in this article.

What is Gravitational Pull?

The gravitational pull of the Earth is the attraction that the Earth exerts on an object or that an object exerts on the Earth. The way in which the gravitational pull is calculated is by using:

  • The mass of the object
  • The mass of the Earth
  • The distance between the center of the object and the center of the Earth
  • The universal gravitational constant

The Concept of Up and Down

The only reason that up and down actually exists is that we humans created these concepts. Without people, these concepts wouldn’t even exist, which is why it is so subjective.

On Earth, we are held to the surface due to the gravitational pull that is in effect. Essentially, we have titled the direction of this gravitation pull ‘down’, and the opposite has been labeled ‘up’.

So, if we can create these labels on Earth, then the same can certainly be said for up in space, the concept would just work differently.

Is There an Up and Down in Space?

If you believe in the constructed idea of up and down that humans have created on Earth, then yes, there is certainly an up and down in space. Since this concept is well adhered to, then there is an up and down in space too.

If we carry these same rules over to space, then ‘down’ would just be the direction that gravity is pulling you towards. In this sense, if an astronaut were being pulled closer to something due to a gravitational pull, then they would be heading in a downwards direction.

If this is the case, the direction of ‘up’ would be the opposite and anything that is away from the gravitational pull.

Astronauts in Space

Those astronauts that are up in space will look like they are simply floating around with no concept of up and down and gravity, but this is not actually the case.

Something that you might not have already known is that these astronauts are in free fall, which is what astronauts can reach when they are orbiting Earth.

Essentially, they are falling towards the Earth, but they have enough sideways trajectory to stay floating.

So, in this situation, what we consider to be ‘down’ would still be in the direction of Earth, as this is the way that gravity would be acting.

Due to the fact that they are orbiting Earth, it means that they are within the gravitational field of Earth and that they are falling towards it.

What if You Are Not Affected by Earth’s Gravitational Pull?

If you were to move far enough away from Earth to the point where you are no longer affected by its gravitational pull, then you would simply be floating around in space until you got close enough to something else that would exert its own gravitational force on you.

As we have already explored in this article, the concept of up and down is not entirely exclusive to planet Earth. This is because we refer to the terms up and down based upon the fact that they rely on the gravitational pull to exist.

So, any other astronomical body that has enough mass to have a gravitational pull would also have the same concept of up and down.

So, no matter where you are in the universe, there will always be an up and down, even in areas of space that are not affected by gravitational pull.

This means that even if you are far enough away from Earth that you are no longer affected by its gravitational pull, there will still be an up and down.

Though it is worth remembering that the very idea of the concept of up and down is an entirely human construct, so this concept only applies to humans as another being would not necessarily have the same concept.

There is always going to be an up and down in space as there is always going to be gravity in large bodies in space that is going to create gravitational pulls.

So the direction of up and down could change in any given space, but its presence will always exist.

What Would Up and Down Be if You Weren’t Near Any Planets?

As we have previously mentioned, there is always going to be a ‘down’ in space as there is always going to be some form of gravity.

If you were far away from any planets and unaffected by their gravitational pull, then you would be floating around in space with no sense of direction.

However, ‘down’ would most likely be considered to be towards the sun, as this is the thing that has the strongest gravitational pull in the entire solar system.

Additionally, the black hole at the center of the galaxy would be considered to be ‘down’, where all of the stars and solar systems are falling, yet still orbiting.

If you are thinking about floating around somewhere that is outside of the Milky Way, then ‘down’ is likely going to be towards a cluster of galaxies.

If you were any further away than this, then you would fall to the next nearest cluster. There is always somewhere that will act as that downward direction.

Gordon Watts