Eclipse maps—maps that show the path of solar eclipses across the surface of the Earth—are very much a thing. As I wrote in my first blog post about eclipse maps back in 2010, “These maps are vital to eclipse chasers, who spend vast sums travelling to places where they can see one, and those slightly less insane who nevertheless are interested in when the next one comes around.” Eclipse chasers are already getting ready for next month’s solar eclipse, which transects the continental United States on 21 August, and of course there are lots of maps.
But knowing an eclipse’s path isn’t always enough. There’s nothing worse than spending a fortune to get to an eclipse-viewing spot only to discover it’s clouded over. You can’t predict the skies far enough in advance, but you can factor in the likelihood that skies will be clear or cloudy for a given location, based on historical weather data. That’s what NOAA’s eclipse cloudiness maps do. [GeoLounge]
Last year Eleanor Lutz published a medieval map of Mars that, while not strictly medieval in style, was a magnificent application of an ostensibly old aesthetic to a very modern map subject. Now she’s produced a sequel: The Goddesses of Venus is an annotated map that explores the etymological origins of each of Venus’s features, nearly all of which are named after women or female mythological figures. [Kottke]
Yesterday the European Space Agency released a sky map based on the first 14 months of data collected by the Gaia spacecraft, an astrometric observatory whose mission is to create a precise catalogue of astronomical objects’ position and relative motion. Several versions are available: annotated, unannotated, annotated with titles (above), unannotated with titles. The maps contain artifacts (curves and stripes) from Gaia’s scanning procedures, but they’ll improve as more data is added over the course of Gaia’s five-year mission.
A new online atlas of artificial sky brightness is now available, based on updated light pollution data published last week. (There’s also a 3D globe version that may not work in all browsers.) Light pollution, as I’ve blogged before, is the bane of professional and amateur astronomers alike, obscuring fainter objects and interfering with observations, both naked-eye and through telescopes. As the article in Science Advances puts it, “This atlas shows that more than 80% of the world and more than 99% of the U.S. and European populations live under light-polluted skies. The Milky Way is hidden from more than one-third of humanity, including 60% of Europeans and nearly 80% of North Americans.” [Rumsey Map Center]
Concomitant with the Survey’s map of Mars was a competition to design a map symbol to represent landing sites. The winner has been announced: the OS will use Paul Marsh’s symbol, which incorporates the Mars symbol with landing gear, on its Mars maps in the future.
The project is to select one candidate landing site and design an actual map that you envision will be useful in surface operations. We ask that you do not create simply a geologic map, but rather a product that can be used by the astronauts during their approximately one-year long mission within the Exploration Zone. This requires creativity, and it is also useful to have a good knowledge of surface features, surface hazards, science goals and the use of the proper cartographic tools.
The contest is open to students, young professional cartographers, and graphic artists in any country of the world.
Catholic News Service: “Of the many momentous or menial tasks women religious perform, one of the better-kept secrets has been the role of four Sisters of the Holy Child Mary who were part of a global effort to make a complete map and catalog of the starry skies. […] Sisters Emilia Ponzoni, Regina Colombo, Concetta Finardi and Luigia Panceri, all born in the late 1800s and from the northern Lombardy region near Milan, helped map and catalog nearly half a million stars for the Vatican’s part in an international survey of the night sky.” [@CUATheoPhilLib]
An updated map of Pluto now includes lower-resolution imagery from earlier in New Horizons’ approach. “The map includes all resolved images of Pluto’s surface acquired between July 7-14, 2015, at pixel resolutions ranging from 18 miles (30 kilometers) on the Charon-facing hemisphere (left and right edges of the map) to 770 feet (235 meters) on the hemisphere facing New Horizons during the spacecraft’s closest approach on July 14, 2015 (map center). The non-encounter hemisphere was seen from much greater range and is, therefore, in far less detail.” See coverage from Universe Today and Wired (the latter has a nice loupe feature on the map).
Kenneth Field’s map of Mars (note updated link) now includes an option to add oceans, with checkboxes to fill the landscape to various elevations.
You can irrigate the planet below the areoid on this map using the water layers. You’ll notice the water layers aren’t blue. On Earth, water appears blue due to red, orange, yellow and green wavelengths of light being absorbed more strongly than blue and also the reflectence of the blue sky. Since Mars has relatively little atmosphere and it’s farther from the sun it’s likely water will appear differently. We’re imagining wavelengths will be absorbed differently, perhaps returning an alien green?