The Rumsey Collection’s Augmented Reality Globe App

The David Rumsey Map Collection has a number of virtual globes, but its AR Globe app may be the most unusual way to view them. Released last December for the iPhone and iPad, it uses augmented reality to superimpose one of seven celestial or terrestrial globes from the 15th through 19th centuries. The globes can be manipulated—spun, zoomed in and out—or observed from the inside (which is a good thing with celestial globes).

To be honest I’m not sold on using augmented reality to view virtual globes. It’s one thing to use AR to superimpose IKEA furniture in your living room: that makes sense, because it helps you visualize where the furniture would go and what it would look like. But it’s hard to see the utility of plunking a virtual globe in your living room: what’s the point of adding your surroundings as a backdrop? Case in point:

It’s neat but not particularly useful, is what I’m saying.

‘Art of the Spheres’ at the Osher Map Library

From L. W. Yaggy, Yaggy’s Geographical Study: Comprising Physical, Political, Geological and Astronomical Geography (1887). Map, 90.5 × 59 cm. Osher Map Library.

An exhibition of astronomical maps and illustrations opened this week at the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine. Art of the Spheres: Picturing the Cosmos since 1600 is, at least in its online version, divided into two categories: Works of Scientific Investigation features chromolithographs of various astronomical phenomena, the moon, planets and deep sky objects from The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings (1881); Popular and Pedagogic Works includes celestial globes, charts and other graphical representations of the universe. Runs until 6 October.

Planetary Maps for Children

Planetary Maps for Children is a collection of pictorial maps of several moons and planets of the Solar System (so far: Venus, Mars, the Moon, Io, Europa, Titan, and Pluto and Charon), aimed at younger map readers. The maps are vibrant and colourful, full of sight gags and “fabulous make-believe creatures” and other sight gags. They’re available in digital, poster and virtual globe formats and available in several languages; the whole thing is a project of the ICA’s Commission on Planetary Cartography. [via]

A Map of Stellar Systems with Exoplanets

Planetary Habilability Laboratory, University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo

Via a friend, this map of stellar systems with exoplanets, produced in 2014 by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.

This is a map of the over one thousand stellar systems with known exoplanets. The map helps to visualize the relative distance and location of exoplanets systems with respect to Earth using a flattened polar projection (i.e. zero declination) with a logarithmic distance scale. Those systems with potentially habitable exoplanets are highlighted with a red circle. You will need to enlarge to see details (probably something good for a Prezi presentation). The map can be printed 27″ × 27″ @ 300dpi.

It’s an update to their original map from 2011. I imagine that there have been enough discoveries since 2014 that the map could be updated again.

Moons and Planets added to Google Maps

Google Maps (screenshot)

The Moon and Mars were relatively early additions to Google Earth; that application may have been migrated to the web, but the planets and moons keep coming. Yesterday Google announced the addition of a dozen other worlds in our solar system; the space layer of Google Maps now includes planets Mercury, Venus and Mars; dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto;1 Jupiter’s moons Io, Europa and Ganymede; and Saturn’s moons Dione, Enceladus, Iapetus, Mimas, Rhea and Titan. Large moons Callisto and Triton aren’t included, and Iapetus is projected onto a sphere rather than appearing as the bizarre space walnut it is.

The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla noticed a thing, though:

Emily reports that this bug affects several moons of Jupiter and Saturn; Google is apparently already on it and may have fixed it by the time you read this.

New Gravity Map of Mars

NASA/Goddard/UMBC/MIT/E. Mazarico

A new gravity map of Mars that shows the thickness of the Martian crust based on gravity measurements from Martian orbiters, reveals a crust that is less dense and shows less variation than earlier maps. “The researchers mapped the density of the Martian crust, estimating the average density is 2,582 kilograms per meter cubed (about 161 pounds per cubic foot). That’s comparable to the average density of the lunar crust. Typically, Mars’ crust has been considered at least as dense as Earth’s oceanic crust, which is about 2,900 kilograms per meter cubed (about 181 pounds per cubic foot).”

An Almost-Too-Late Roundup of Historical and Unusual Eclipse Maps

I meant to post this before today’s solar eclipse, but I spent a good chunk of the past few days dealing with basic site maintenance; during the eclipse itself I was, well, observing and photographing it. But while the iron may not be as red-hot as it was even eight hours ago, it’s still glowing a bit, so how about I clear out some bookmarks:

Eclipse maps that pinpoint the zone of totality date back to the eighteenth century. Atlas Obscura looks at those early eclipse maps, notably those from Edmond Halley.

In the runup to the eclipse there have been some seriously weird and quirky eclipse maps, many of which correlating the path of the eclipse to utterly unrelated things. The first one I saw was this one: the path of the eclipse versus bigfoot sightings.

There have been others. Many others, to the point of absurdity. Maps on the Web has been collecting these maps over the past few weeks, and All Over the Map’s roundup of eclipse maps features them as well.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post’s Wonkblog noted the eerie correlation between Google searches about the eclipse and the path of the eclipse itself:

Washington Post

Finally, people were watching traffic maps to track the number of people travelling to watch the eclipse. Apparently eclipse-related traffic congestion was a thing. (Here’s Michael Zeiler’s forecast, based on population statistics.)

Mapping the August 2017 Solar Eclipse

Drive times to the centerline of the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse
Michael Zeiler,

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.

Michael Zeiler, whose website about solar eclipse maps, coincidentally called, I told you about in 2011, has launched a separate website dedicated to next month’s eclipse, called (wait for it)  There are eclipse maps for every state the path passes through, various maps presenting additional information, and a 10-foot-long strip map of the path of totality.

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]

Eleanor Lutz’s Goddesses of Venus

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]

Previously: ‘Here There Be Robots’: Eleanor Lutz’s Map of Mars.

The Last Unmapped Places

Lois Parshley’s essay on the last unmapped, mysterious places—Greenlandic fjords, the slums of Haiti, the ocean’s depths, black holes in space—is a long read worth reading. Originally published last month as “Here Be Dragons: Finding the Blank Spaces in a Well-Mapped World” in the Virginia Quarterly Review, it’s been reprinted by the Guardian, in an edited, tighter version, as “Faultlines, Black Holes and Glaciers: Mapping Uncharted Territories.”

Pluto Globe Announced

pluto-globeAstronomy magazine has announced a new globe of Pluto based on data from the 2015 flyby of the dwarf planet by the New Horizons probe. The 12-inch globe is limited by what New Horizons was able to see: it’s low-resolution in some areas and blank in others. In addition, 65 surface features are labelled—a brave move considering that all the names are provisional until the IAU approves them. The globe sells for $100.

Gaia’s First Sky Map


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 Globe of Percival Lowell’s Mars


Hand-made globes are increasingly a thing, apparently. As Atlas Obscura reports this week, Michael Plichta’s company, Planetenkugel-Manufaktur, is producing a hand-crafted globe of Mars with a twist: it’s based on Percival Lowell’s maps, which (erroneously) showed the Martian surface covered in canals. It’s delightfully retro and I love it. Here’s a video:

Nowhere on the website is a price mentioned, which tells me that I won’t be able to afford one, damn it.