The Coriolis effect on a ring-shaped space station gets the most attention, but disregarding that, would the rotation of the starfield be too disorienting?

A 1km radius station at 1G simulated gravity rotates just under once a minute. That's pretty damn fast. The starfield in your vision would be rushing around constantly. Even doubling the radius, that's still 1.5 minutes.

Edit: I am specifically imagining seeing the starfield through the "ceiling" exclusively, for what it's worth.

Would people be able to adapt to that or would it always be difficult, or flat out too difficult to live with?

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    $\begingroup$ I imagine the most disorientating (imho) aspect would be seeing the curvature. I feel like (not sure) your brain would be saying: "Hey we are climbing." but your body wouldn't be experiencing resistance... perhaps I am overthinking it. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ We don't by custom designate an accepted answer for 24 hours, as this may discourage other (better) answers, it's fine to withdraw and then re-award the bonus later. That being said, abestrange's answer was my favorite (so far). $\endgroup$ Commented May 7, 2019 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Hoyle'sghost ah! ok, I'll change again if necessary :) $\endgroup$
    – T3db0t
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 21:44

3 Answers 3


They would be fine. The simulated gravity would keep the occupant's feet pointing outward, so they would have to look down while standing on a window to see the stars rushing past.

That is assuming you even have windows on your outer ring surface, which would pose a significant risk compared to a having reinforced hull. It would be easier and probably cheaper to have cameras mounted outside "live streaming" the view of space to monitors to act as windows.

Watch this timelapse from the ISS's perspective to see if that bothers you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B18UEqn5Yw4

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for that video, that's a great reference point. I was specifically thinking of glass "ceilings" (the interior surface of the ring). So I guess it'd only be particularly visible when you look straight up. $\endgroup$
    – T3db0t
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ A glass ceiling would come with some other oddities, like being able to look "forward" or up-spin of the ring and see the rest of the station curling up ahead of you. I still posit that the logistics and risk of using any transparent material on your outer hull is a bad idea. If you must spare no expense and go with a transparent metal ceiling, at least take solace in the fact that occupants will be screened for motion sickness sensitivity before being launched into space. $\endgroup$
    – abestrange
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ That video doesn't seem to show what the OP is looking for. The ISS appears to be keeping itself oriented with respect to the Earth's surface as it orbits. If this can be perceived as rotation at all, it would seem to be much slower than the rate the OP notes in the question. $\endgroup$
    – jpmc26
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ @jpmc26: I think the point is that watching the timelapse from the ISS would be similar to watching in real time on the proposed 1km 1G station. Not to slow down the ISS video to ISS real-time. $\endgroup$ Commented May 8, 2019 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ I think that there could be material benefits in using a transparent ceiling: for instance, with a proper axial tilt and orbital period for the station, you might be able to simulate a natural day-night cycle using actual sunlight. Similarly, it might allow more "traditional" forms of agriculture, if your station is large enough. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 6:03

I imagine it would be, at the worst, like riding in a car. The outside whips by, but it's mostly just there. People get used to almost anything pretty quickly.

If the station's engineers were concerned about that they'd probably remove all the non-essential windows (which would also improve structural integrity) and have monitors showing a stabilized outside pasted to the walls instead.


Despite the issues other answers mention, large glass windows on space stations are likely to be considered stylish and desirable "must have"s. It will inevitably cause problems especially when the station is nearby of a sun. The lighting changes every minute can get quite annoying.

Many problems with sunlight could be result of architects' fancy/inattention to details even in contemporary Earthbound architecture. Some glass facades are problematic due to too much sunlight/heat in some places, no privacy from outside, or even effects outside the building like melting plastic.

  • $\begingroup$ Large windows on airplanes are stylish, but expensive. Mass / cost would be a factor on space station too $\endgroup$
    – JollyJoker
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 7:19
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, but a 1km radius station is likely to have multiple decks and to be many rooms wide. Most rooms won't have any outside surface. I also suspect that it won't be 1G, as lower acceleration would be much cheaper. Like cabin pressure in an airliner (or leg room) it'll be set just above the point where people complain. $\endgroup$ Commented May 8, 2019 at 8:03

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