Assuming that a place in Europe is exactly on the opposite side of the earth than
. Now I want to
take a plane to travel there. Does it matter if the plan flies with the
rotation of the earth or counter the rotation of the earth? i.e. Does it matter
if the plane flies westbound or eastbound? Sydney
Intuitively I would say it does matter, because if I fly against the earth rotation the goal, in this case
is coming nearer. On the other hand, maybe the plane is still in the atmosphere
and therefore part of the earth rotation. Sydney
This actually depends on quite a few factors. I wondered this once many years ago, and asked around quite a bit. Didn't have Travel.SE back then ;)
The earth is rotating at a rather fast speed - and any point on the earth is therefore actually 'moving' (it's all relative). Since the points on the equator have further to travel, they're moving even faster than at the poles.
Now, of course, the air is dragged around WITH the earth, thankfully, otherwise the poor chaps on the equator would have wind speeds in the opposite direction of near the speed of sound ;)
However, when you're in a plane, consider that it can take nearly an hour longer to fly across the
Atlantic in a westerly direction
('against' the spin) than 'with' the spin.
When you're flying with the spin, and by relation, with the wind, you're not flying 'into' a force that's going the other way, as you are when you fly against the spin. The earth is also dragging you with it - or rather, it's dragging the atmosphere, and you in it.
However, what you'll tend to find is that it's actually far more dependent in reality on the existence of jetstreams - where the air up there is moving faster than at ground level, and can boost the plane's speed if going in the same direction. Of course, in the other direction you do well to avoid the jetstream, as it would slow you down.
To put it in words more eloquent than my own, I'll borrow a quote from Aerospaceweb.org, which first, you must consider yourself to be running....
Stop running. If you were to jump straight up in the air, would the Earth rotate beneath you? (Those who do believe that the Earth rotates around them may want to stop reading right now.) No, because when you left the Earth's surface, you were traveling at the same speed as the surface, so, in essence, the Earth matched your speed through space while you were in the air! The same condition holds true for an airplane as it travels from
to . Bombay
If we were to ignore the winds, no matter which direction you flew from
, the speed of
the aircraft relative to the Earth would be the same. While the aircraft's
speed through space would change, the effect of the Earth's rotation remains
constant, and in effect is "cancelled out" no matter which direction
you travel. In other words, the speed of the rotation of the Earth is already
imparted to the aircraft, and the Earth matches that speed during the entire
flight. (Of course, in the case of spacecraft, these speeds become very
important.) Los Angeles
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