The Big Picture

Give a hundred people a picture of the earth, identify the North Pole for them, and a hundred will hold the photo with the North Pole toward their head and the South Pole toward their feet. Of course, what they are really doing, if they are standing up, is pointing the South Pole at the center of the earth and, if they are standing at the equator, pointing the North Pole at some spot in the sky, which, as the earth turns, traces a circle intersecting the plane of the ecliptic at 23 1/2 degrees. Now why people persist in this foolishness I don’t know. In my living room I have a small framed photograph showing a thin crescent against a black background. Even though the colors are wrong, people always say, ‘Oh, the moon!’; but it is the earth. The earth isn’t ever supposed to be a crescent, I suppose.

— Astronaut Michael Collins, Carrying the Fire, 1975