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 Phys.org and Space.com; 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. Space.com 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]

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, GreatAmericanEclipse.com

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 Eclipse-Maps.com, I told you about in 2011, has launched a separate website dedicated to next month’s eclipse, called (wait for it) GreatAmericanEclipse.com.  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]