Many Moon Maps

National Geographic’s 1969 map of the Moon

With the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 almost upon us, there’s been an uptick in moon-related content, which includes moon-related map content. For example:

New Exhibition. Opening today at The Map House in London, The Mapping of the Moon: 1669-1969, an exhibition of three centuries of lunar cartography. “The exhibition includes rare early 17th and 18th Century observations of the moon from astronomers such as Athanasius Kircher and Jean-Dominique Cassini, important maps produced by NASA for lunar exploration, globes and signed material by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean and Jim Lovell.” Runs until 21 July. [ARTFIXDaily]

New Map. The July 2019 issue of National Geographic has a new map of the Moon that updates the 1969 painted version (see above) with a mosaic based on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imagery. I don’t know whether that means a physical version of the map will be included with the issue as an insert, but I hope it does.

New Way to Navigate. NASA has a post on using GPS on the Moon. Now, I’d thought that using GPS on another world would require the deployment of a GPS satellite constellation around said world. No, this is about using Earth-orbiting GPS signals for lunar navigation, which simulations suggest is possible. The mind boggles.

Eleanor Lutz’s Atlas of Space

Eleanor Lutz

Last week Eleanor Lutz, who gave us an old-style map of Mars in 2016 and a Goddesses of Venus map in 2017, announced her latest project: “Over the past year and a half I’ve been working on a collection of ten maps on planets, moons, and outer space. To name a few, I’ve made an animated map of the seasons on Earth, a map of Mars geology, and a map of everything in the solar system bigger than 10km.” In the coming weeks she’ll be going through each of those maps and explaining the design and source data for each. First up this week: her map of the solar system showing the orbits of every object larger than 10 km in diameter, from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt, and thousands of asteroids in between. [Universe Today]

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

Lunar Cartography During the Age of Apollo

Writing for Crosscut, Tom Reese memorializes his father, who worked as a cartographer and engineer for NASA’s Aeronautical Chart and Information Center during the Apollo program. Harlan Reese left behind a collection of maps, photos and charts in his garage which, Tom says, still contains “mesmerizing detail and mystery”:

One box has odds and ends of early lunar photography, some of the prints overlain with Dad’s hand-drawn compass points, landing site X’s and handwritten notations. The images were made through large telescopes on Earth, by the Surveyors and Rangers and Lunar Orbiters and early Apollos flying around and over the most promising landing sites. You can also see those smudged fingerprints that likely belong to Dad, mixed with those of many others who used magnifiers and X-Acto knives to carefully slice apart select sections of crater fields. Some small globs of cracked glue remain where they dripped during the process of pasting together the cut pieces to form mosaics of the unexplored landscape.

Some small indentations probably show how the prints were positioned in viewing devices like the extremely precise optical comparator, which helped human eyes interpret the length of shadows inside craters for the first time. These results were coordinated with data about altitude and lunar daylight to provide the most precise terrain measurements possible. Careful airbrushing would smooth over and fill in terra incognita with educated guessing. Finally, this data would be transformed into the precisely printed maps and charts that would help lunar lander pilots to, among other things, second-guess in real time the navigation decisions made by computers of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Below, a Target of Opprtunity Flight Chart for the Apollo 11 mission:

Apollo 11 Target of Opportunity Flight Chart

The Ordnance Survey Releases a Moon Map

Map of The Moon: 50th Anniversary Edition Map
Ordnance Survey

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first crewed landing on the Moon, the Ordnance Survey has released a map of the Apollo 11 landing site. The map is based on a 60-metre digital elevation model and covers a roughly 1,350×1,000 km swath of the near side at a scale of 1:1,470,000. Details from the map are available at this Flickr album. Paul Naylor describes the creation of the map here. The Ordnance Survey is selling a paper version of the map (100×89 cm, in rolled and folded versions) for £16. I kind of want one for my wall.

The Ordnance Survey produced a map of Mars in 2016.

Digital Museum of Planetary Mapping

Camille Flammarion, “Mappemonde géographique de la planète Mars,” Terres du Ciel, 1884.

The Digital Museum of Planetary Mapping is an online collection of maps of the planets and moons of our solar system. There are more than two thousand maps in the catalogue, some dating as far back as the 17th century, but the bulk of them, understandably, are much more recent; also understandably, Mars and the Moon are the subject of most of the maps (40 and 46 percent, respectively).

The site is more like a blog than a library catalogue: it’s powered by WordPress and the individual listings are blog posts, but that’s perfectly legitimate, albeit less elegant. (But then who am I to judge?)

The project was presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Berlin last month: for news coverage, see and; the press release is here. [WMS/WMS]

Sarah Spencer’s Giant Star Map Tapestry

Sarah Spencer (Twitter)

This huge star map tapestry is the work of Australian maker Sarah Spencer, who created it by hacking a 1980s-era knitting machine. Yes, this thing was knitted: it apparently took more than 100 hours and 15 kg (33 lbs) of (locally sourced Australian) wool to produce this 4.6×2.8-metre (15×9-foot) monster, which is accurate (with the caveat that an equatorial projection distorts familiar circumpolar constellations) and reasonably detailed: the constellations are labelled and the stars’ apparent magnitude is indicated. has the story. [Boing Boing]

An Amazing Relief Globe of the Moon

In 2016 I told you about Michael Plichta’s first globe, a delightfully retro hand-crafted globe of Mars based on Percival Lowell’s maps that showed the world covered in canals. Plichta’s second globe project is also cool and unusual, but in a completely different way: it’s a relief globe of the Moon. No globe gores were used to make this 30-cm globe: the textured surface is cast in artificial plaster and then painted by hand, a compulsively exacting process laid out in this short video:

Hand-crafted globes are never inexpensive, and though Michael never mentions prices, this one cannot be either. (I’ve seen his Mars globe listed for $1,850.) That said, this is a definite lust object. I desperately want one.

Previously: A Globe of Percival Lowell’s Mars; New Moon Globe Released; Globes of the Solar System.

New Maps of Pluto and Charon

Tenzing Montes, Pluto. NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI/LPI/Paul Schenk.

New global and topographic maps of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, have been published. The Icarus articles—this one for Pluto, this one for Charon—are behind a paywall, however, though I expect the maps themselves to be freely available at some point.

To create the maps, New Horizons researchers, led by Universities Space Research Association (USRA) senior staff scientist, Paul Schenk, at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, registered all the images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) systems together and assembled the mosaics. This labor-intensive effort required detailed alignment of surface features in overlapping images. Digital analysis of stereo images obtained by both cameras were used to create topographic maps for each region; these were then assembled into integrated topographic maps for each body. These new maps of Pluto and Charon were produced painstakingly over a two-year period as data were slowly transmitted to Earth from the New Horizons spacecraft. The quality of geographically and topographically accurate maps improved with each new batch of images that were returned to Earth.

One surprise revealed by the maps: both Pluto and Charon have a lot of elevation. For example: Pluto’s Tenzing Montes range (above) rises up to 6 km above the surrounding plain, and Charon has a topographic amplitude of 19 km (only Iapetus has more). That’s seriously craggy. Keep in mind that these are not large worlds: Pluto’s radius is 1,200 km, Charon’s 600 km. [Michele Bannister]

Radiation Map of Europa

U.S. Geological Survey, NASA/JPL-Caltech, JHUAPL, Nature Astronomy.

I knew that Europa, like Jupiter’s other major moons, was absolutely baked by radiation coming from Jupiter (Wikipedia reports it at 5.4 Sv/day, a lethal dose). It did not occur to me that that radiation was not evenly distributed. In preparation for future missions to Europa, a new study, using Galileo and Voyager data, tries to map where the radiation is most intense on the Europan surface, as well as how far that radiation penetrates beneath the surface. If there’s life on Europa, it’s probably where the radiation isn’t. [JPL]

Titan in Infrared

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Nantes/University of Arizona

Because of its thick and opaque atmosphere, Titan had to be mapped in radar and infrared during a series of close flybys by the Cassini spacecraft. One artifact of this process: the resolution, lighting and atmospheric conditions were not consistent, so mosaic images and maps of Titan’s surface showed visible seams. That’s been corrected in these infrared images of Titan’s surface, released last week. The false-colour images remap infrared wavelengths to the visible spectrum, using a band-ratio technique that minimizes seams. “With the seams now gone, this new collection of images is by far the best representation of how the globe of Titan might appear to the casual observer if it weren’t for the moon’s hazy atmosphere, and it likely will not be superseded for some time to come.”

Previously: Mapping Titan with VIMS.

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]