Which Way Does the Earth Rotate?


Which Direction Does the Earth Rotate

Hopefully you’re aware that the Earth spins on its axis, but have you ever wondered which direction the Earth rotates? Do you know whether other planets in our Solar System spin the same way?

  • The Earth rotates west to east. In other words, the Earth’s rotation is eastward.
  • The Sun rises in the east and set in the west.
  • But, the Earth’s axis is tilted, so the Sun only moves true west to true east on the equinox. It only rises due east and sets due west on the equinox.
  • Th Earth and most planets rotate in the same direction as their star rotates, but there are exceptions.

Direction of Earth’s Rotation

The Earth rotates from west to east, which is commonly called “eastward” rotation. If you view the rotation from above the North Pole, the direction of rotation is clockwise. However, if you view the rotation from below the South Pole, this rotation appears counterclockwise.

Which Direction Does the Sun Rise?

The Sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But, that’s not precisely true except during the equinox. This is because of the Earth’s axial tilt of about 23.5 degrees. The direction the Earth rotates is always eastward, but sunrise and sunset are north of true east and west in the northern hemisphere in the summer and south of true east and west in the winter. In the southern hemisphere, it’s reversed. The Sun rises and sets north of east and west in the winter and south of east and west in the summer.

Do All Planets Rotate the Same Direction?

Not all planets rotate the same direction as Earth. Earth’s eastward rotation is prograde, meaning the Earth spins in the same direction as the Sun also rotates. Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune also experience prograde rotation. However, Venus and Uranus have retrograde rotation.

So, Venus rotates clockwise or east to west (westward) as viewed from above its north pole. From the perspective of Earth, the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east on Venus. However, since “east” basically refers to the direction of sunrise, if you are on Venus, the Sun rises in the east. It’s confusing, right? Uranus has an axial tilt of around 98 degrees, so it’s rotation is even more unconventional.

While not all of the planets in our Solar System rotate in the same direction, they do all orbit the Sun in the same direction.

References

  • Correia, Alexandre C. M.; Laskar, Jacques (2010). “Tidal Evolution of Exoplanets”. In S. Seager (ed.). Exoplanets. University of Arizona Press. doi:10.48550/arXiv.1009.1352
  • McBride, Neil; Bland, Philip A.; Gilmour, Iain (2004). An Introduction to the Solar System. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-54620-1.
  • McCarthy, Dennis D.; Seidelmann, Kenneth P. (2009). Time: From Earth Rotation to Atomic Physics. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-3-527-62795-0.
  • Paolicchi, P.; Kryszczyńska, A. (2012). “Spin vectors of asteroids: Updated statistical properties and open problems”. Planetary and Space Science. 73 (1): 70–74. doi:10.1016/j.pss.2012.02.017