2017 in Review 3: New Planetary Citizen Maps

Citizen scientist maps should deserve more attention, they are not just another renderings of already-known images but beautifully crafted high quality (and resolution) cartographic products.

The Goddesses of Venus

by Eleanor Lutz (USA)

A continuation of the Medieval map of Mars project, this unusual map takes you to the land of goddesses.



Maps of Mercury

by atlas-v7x (DeviantArt)  (New Zealand)

This series of Mercury maps show Mercury as no one has seen it before. These maps use MESSENGER topographic and color albedo data alone and combined. Nomenclature is dual, blue names are albedo features, white ones are topographic.





Craters of the Moon

by atlas-v7x (DeviantArt)  (New Zealand)

This thematic map shows the topography of the Moon with crater names accompanied with little flags that show the nationality of the person the crater was named after.



The Planet Venus / Venus – Map of Craters

by atlas-v7x (DeviantArt) (New Zealand)

Generic map of Venus, based on old Magellan radar altimeter data, with a fresh, terrestrial look. The Venus crater map looks as if it was taken from a School Atlas. Very Earth-like colors of very alien world with a random distribution of impact craters symbolized with little suns, otherwise to small to show up at this scale.




47 Mars exploration zones for a future human mission

By Mateusz Pitura (Poland)

Did you know that Mars Exploration Zones still have no Wikipedia entry? Until a Wiki editor would discover that we have dozens of candidate human Mars mission targets, here is the map of these sites.



Titan Texture Map 8k

by FarGetaNik (DeviantArt) (Germany)

This map is at least as good as the new Google Earth Titan map and combines infrared equatorial coverage with polar radar swaths.  Dark areas show lakes at the poles and dunes at the equator.



Also this year:

Photomosaic Maps of Pluto 



Photomosaic Map of Io


Which one is your favorite planetary Citizen Map in 2017?

Vote for it: https://goo.gl/forms/LuvVr2uC5IwZsWEJ2


2017 in Review 2: New Planetary Geologic Maps

2017 brings us a couple of new geologic planetary maps. This year European groups published the same number of geologic/geomorphic planetary maps as the USGS. We present short descriptions of them and ask you to vote for your favourite map below.

Geologic Map of Meridiani Planum, Mars

by Brian M. Hynek and Gaetano Di Achille (USA)

The Meridiani Planum area is the landing site of the Opportunity rover. Authors of this map indicate that the map is using more recent orbiter data to “place rover’s findings in a broader context”. It can help evaluate the geologic and hydrologic histories of the Meridiani region.



Geology of the Shakespeare quadrangle (H03), Mercury

by Laura Guzzetta, Valentina Galluzzi, Luigi Ferranti & Pasquale Palumbo (Italy)

A map that is an improvement over the previous, Mariner10 based 35 years old map of the quadrangle, now using MESSENGER data. The region is characterized by three main types of plains materials and four basin materials (formations). This map classifies craters into 3 classes based on their degradation that is not comparable to the 5 classes in the previous map. The map will support the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo project.


2017_Geology of the Shakespeare quadrangle (H03)_Mercury

Geomorphological Map of Ius Chasma, Valles Marineris, Mars

by Krzysztof Dębniak, Daniel Mège & Joanna Gurgurewicz (Poland)

A major part of Valles Marineris, Ius Chasma, is rich in geomorphological features. The authors say that “The map displays 52 main geomorphological units of which some are further subdivided. They include both well-established features (e.g. spur-and-gully morphology on trough walls, landslide scars, and deposits), and newly reported landforms (e.g. alluvial fans with dendritic channels, moraines in western Ius Chasma).”



Bedrock and structural geologic maps of eastern Candor Sulci, western Ceti Mensa, and southeastern Ceti Mensa, Candor Chasma, Valles Marineris region of Mars

by Chris H. Okubo and Tenielle A. Gaither (USA)

Another map from Valles Marineris, which is a part of a large-scale project. On two sheets we can find elevation data maps, geologic maps, cross section, stratigraphic units and events, stereonet plots (showing poles to planes of discontinuities) and other visualizations.



Generic identification and classification of morphostructures in the Noachis-Sabaea region, southern highlands of Mars

by Trishit Ruj, Goro Komatsu, James M. Dohm, Hirdy Miyamoto & Francesco Salese (Italy)

This first morphostructural map of the Noachis-Sabaea region displays structures and forms (craters, grabens, faults, ridges) with correlation to geologic units in detail. According to the authors, the work is “the basis for making inferences about Noachian-Hesperian crustal activity, and provides information for further studies regarding the reconstruction of the evolutional history of the region.”



Geologic map of Ceres

by David A. Williams , Debra L. Buczkowski , Scott C. Mest , Jennifer E.C. Scully (USA)

This map is a global summary of the large Ceres mapping project which brought us 15 quadrangle maps. These maps are available in the Geologic Mapping of Ceres Special Issue of Icarus. The global geologic map is at a scale of 1:3 500 000, which shows that impact craters dominate the surface of this dwarf planet.



Which one is your favorite geologic map of 2017? Vote for it below:

2017 in Review 1: New Planetary Web Mapping Servers

2017 brought a boom in planetary online WMS services. We show you which new service can do what. 

The new Google map

Google worked closely with NASA the next corner in Silicon Valley to prepare the highest, 5m/px resolution global photomosaic of Mars in 2012 that even researchers used for browsing Mars, only available through Google Earth, but not in the web-based map. This year Google added a wealth of new layers, although nothing is published about the image sources or cartographic control. Perhaps at LPSC2018. The service “as is” but still provides the fastest planetary image browsing opportunity for the armchair scientist. Maps include clickable nomenclature. The uniqueness of Google maps is that they are original photomosaics you can’t find elsewhere.

Some of the additions include

  • a beautiful high resolution multiscale color map of Mercury, which shows albedo at low resolution and low-sun relief view when you zoom in, both MESSENGER data
  • a global radar view of Venus at full Magellan resolution
  • a so-so albedo view of the Moon
  • Mars is now a not very seamless but quite high resolution HRSC color mosaic with some gaps
  • Ceres is added but not Vesta
  • Color and multiscale mosaic for Ganymede and Callisto
  • Titan is a nicely rendered seamless infrared+radar view at high resolution
  • Pluto and Charon is also the highest resolution global mosaic in color
  • And mosaics for other outer solar system satellites



ESRI’s Solar System Atlas

The company behind ArcGIS, the most commonly used mapping software in planetary cartography, has published its online atlas from the layers also available for direct import into an ArcGIS project. Unlike for Google, credit is given for all image sources, but in this case mosaicking was not done by ESRI, but all maps were taken from USGS/NASA. This service is basically a tile service to quickly display existing data, including geologic maps.



Planetary Surface Portal / PSUP

This is a service from French university observatories (Paris Sud and Lyon), who made their OMEGA data available through this service. OMEGA (Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activit) is a hyperspectral imaging spectrometer developed in France, originally for a failed Russian mission, onboard the European Mars Express spacecraft. Mineralogical and albedo data can be viewed, and downloaded from the WMS along with some feature database layers.



Planetary Cesium Viewer

The Cesium technology based viewer from the Paris Sud University in France shows global mosaics for basically all major moons and planets in the Solar System, including the gas giants.  The maps can be viewed as globes or 2D flat maps. The code is open, and available on Github.


Open Planetary Map Mars Basemap v0.1

The OpenPlanetaryMap (OPM) project aims to develop a vector based Mars map that users can modify and personalize. This is a community-based project where planetary scientists can share their cartographic ideas. The map uses CARTO Builder and there are detailed instructions on how you can build your own map within this system. This is the first attempt to create a vector-based Mars basemap, which would bring fresh air into a raster-filled planetary mapping universe.



Moon Trek

The official NASA outreach/research map combo for the Moon, an online platform  for both enthusiasts and researchers. Numerous datasets, mapping and analysis tools are offered. Developed at NASA Ames and JPL in California.



And we did not list those WMS services that started before 2017…

Which one is your favorite? Vote for the best new planetary WMS in 2017:


ICC2017 – The planetary program

Report of the ICA Commission on Planetary Cartography meeting at ICC2017 Washington
Chair: H. Hargitai

The meeting had 12+1 participants. The sessions included 7 planetary talks (plus two in the pre-conference workshop) and 4 posters.
We discussed the commission projects, including the children’s maps, EPO apps and projects, nomenclature issues and databases.
It was stated that the basic goal of the commission is not to resolve science questions but to facilitate visibility of planetary datasets for the terrestrial cartographers and produce EPO materials for students.
M. Pitura volunteered to further develop the commission’s WordPress website.
We agreed that the commission website will feature a “toolbox” for planetary EPO that will include the tools we presented during the meeting, including the desciption of enhanced ePub, game/city engine etc.
A. Nass talked about the need for a publication that helps mappers in planetary feature identification in images.
A. Jasper talked about the problems of nested placenames, and designation of subsurface features identified on radar data.
For the childrens maps, we talked about the need of better targeting age groups and defining the exact ways the map wants to engage readers and how the map could relate to the reader’s experience.
We agreed that a planetary map reading test will be made to find the best ways to depict an extraterrestrial surface that is understood by the readers. Placenames are important on a planetary map because they may be the only parts of the map that is relatable, i.e. has some familiarity to the map reader.
In future publications we will experiment with maps designed in familiar scales, i.e. city map, country map, continent map scales – increasing relatability.
We have discussed the possibilities of coordinated activities between our commission and the IAU Commission on Cartographic Coordinates & Rotational Elements.
We have discusses the possibility of new commission projects:
Open Planetary, an open source user interface to interact with Mars map, the “Martian open street map”
– Automated extraction of areas of interest of research papers
– enhanced ePub applications
– real life location based applications designed for Mars (etc) maps for smartphones
– creative identification of any point on a planet’s surface, that can be used by virtual explorers to identify their current location, and address or “three words”
– development of detailed astronomy club educational activities based on planetary cartographic products or the production of planetary maps
– new approaches to map styles, e.g. mapbox
– promote the inclusion of maps in astronomy apps like “Planets”
– Promote the inclusion of planetary maps in Atlases, with a good example the Swiss World Atlas
– verbal comparative description of an area to known units on earth (this place on Mars is 10 Spains)
– triggered by a talk by J. Reyes, we could develop a Mars Atlas based on the design of the School atlases of M. Kogutowicz.

There is no decision on next year’s meeting but it could be in Central Europe.
We have agreed that in Tokyo, a new chair has to be appointed.

Comments, ideas, projects from You? Send it to hhargitai @ gmail.com.

Henrik Hargitai


Thursday, July 6, 2017
Location: Harding

12:30 PM – 1:20 PM

Power Point Presentation

2:50 PM – 3:50 PM
TECHNICAL SESSIONS – 6600s Planetary Cartography
Location: Harding
4:10 PM – 5:30 PM
TECHNICAL SESSIONS – 6700s Planetary Cartography

Location: Harding

Planetary Maps from Archie’s Press: The Elements of Space

Archie’s Press publishes minimalist “mental” maps that are built from circles. “The circle, our Universe’s softest shape, clearly conveys size and connections.” – Archie says. He created a “Map from the Mind” for dozens of cities, simplifying structures and districts in the simplest terms. The same way Harry Beck’s London Tube Map simplified the representation of the real world to lines and curves, Archie Archambault expands this idea to cities, states, – and celestial bodies. He finds the best known features and names and shows them in a way easy to keep in your mind. This is cartography at its best.
His outer space series, also made along the same geometric principles, includes the maps of Jupiter, Mars, the Moon, Saturn, the Sun, The Solar System and the Galaxy. There is no unnecessry element on the maps: even annotations serve a cartographic purpose.

Continue reading “Planetary Maps from Archie’s Press: The Elements of Space”

New Pluto/Charon map for children

The perfect gift for your young scientist?
The new children’s map of PLUTO and CHARON.
The map will premiere on December 13 at the AGU meeting in San Francisco and will be available for download from the next day.
In the USA, we ship it to your home before the holidays.
Downloads of the full resolution map will be free before the holidays.
Other maps in the series: https://childrensmaps.wordpress.com/

Cartographic Visions of Mars

How do you chose your summer travel destination? Checking websites, asking friends? And how do you navigate there? Using road signs? Online maps on your smartphone? Offline maps on smartphone? Paper maps? GSP turned on? Trusting your instincts?

OK now how would you do this on Mars if you were a Mars Astronaut? The mission: explore an area 100 km in radius (the size of Maryland or Belgium). What’s worth studying? How do you get there? What if you lose power? What landmarks will you have? With no roads, no vegetation, but lots of craters, rocks and dust, you will need a good map designed for planning and navigating – a map that can save your life.

“Where the orbital maps indicated a smooth plain, there was instead a vast crater field and collections of truck-sized boulders.” (On the Apollo 11 landing)

And you want to avoid a situation like that, just seconds before landing, as it happened during the Apollo 11 mission.

apollo astronaut.jpg

Apollo astronauts had a “cuff checklist” booklet  (see image above).

Apollo 13 traverse map from cuff checklist. No battery, GPS or wifi were needed to operate it. 

On Mars, it will probably be different.

We asked students, GIS professionals and citizen scientists to design a map, or map elements that could be useful for the astronauts who will use them in… well, at least 25 years from now.

Here we show you a selection of the works and ideas we received in our Exploration Zone competition:

Hiking on Mars


Map (c) Mateusz Pitura

Mateusz Pitura showed Mars in golden ochre colors. The Hebrus Valles habitat is next to the rampart flow front of a crater ejecta. The author evaluated all routes according to their difficulties. It is a hiking map on Mars.

  • Easy – < 15 km long. No special preparations required. Possibility of surface dust and small craters. Slopes under 10 degrees.
  • Medium – 15 -30 km. Rocks, rock rubble, small craters, surface dust, troughs and slope above 10 degrees.
  • Hard – >30 km. Hazards inlcude steep slopes, >30 cm rocks which could be an obstacle for rovers, big rock formations, craters, surface dust, troughs, ice and depressions.

The Visor Map

Illustration (c) Jonathan Ocon

Jonathan Ocon mapped Acheron Fossae. Usually we use some hand-held device to view maps, but on Mars, you are already within a device, the space suit. So instead of a paper checklist fixed on your arm, as they did on the Moon, we could use augmented and virtual reality technology and project geospatial information onto the visor used as a screen. In this view, it displays all data about nearby potential targets, date, time, and overview map.

The Map of a New Home


Map (c) Eian Ray

This map by Eian Ray shows Eastern Valles Marineris. The map contains contour lines, points of interests and distances from the hab that could be the most important data to know when you leave the hab and want to return in time. The map also contains fictional names:  ” Not only will this encourage mental and emotional continuity by exposing the mission participants to names of places they are already familiar with, but it will help foster a sense of place as the astronauts begin to develop a geospatial awareness of their new Martian home. … It softens the difficulties faced by those who’ve settled in a new land, while drawing new explorers to an unfamiliar land with visions of familiar sights and sounds, real or imagined” – Ray says. 

Showing directions and places of other landing sites is a unique feature of this map. ” In the unfamiliar environment of the Martian landscape, I wanted to create a sense of place for the explorers. – Ray explains –  On Mars there will be no place, culture, people, food, sights or smells that can provide this context. The life-support and equipment that accompany them will be intimately familiar to the explorers, but even these objects won’t fill many of the social, emotional, and geospatial needs firmly planted in our psyches through an Earthly evolutionary process. There are no sources of security, no places of refuge, and no ability to let one’s guard down. … To mitigate feelings of isolation and potential psychological distress I decided it was important to illustrate the bearings and distance from the landing site to all human activity on the planet. This is intended to convey to the astronauts that they are a part of something larger, something on-going, something that is connected and provides continuity to the rest of humanity despite
being 225 to 400 million kilometers from Earth. Similar to maritime maps of the New World during the 16
th century that included Europe and northwest Africa as reference points, this map includes significant historical places to provide the same geospatial context.”

Less is more

Map (c) Camillo Battistioli

Camillo Battistioli mapped Acheron Fossae. These maps don’t want to achieve photorealistic representation, instead, it shows the surface in a simplified way: contour lines become elevation slices, shades of brows show height and a grid helps our sense of distance.  The pathways are clear and simple, and a perspective view helps familiarize with the target area at a single glance. This happens when cartography, science and art meets.

All-in-one App for Mars

Illustrations (c) JJ Moran

Map data are just one of the many things Astronauts should know here and now. 3D spatial data, live streams of weather conditions – dust storms, approaching dust devils, potential or existing fog or CO2 frost -, health data can hugely affect the mission. It is also good to see what other astronauts – and robots – are doing. Astronauts likely won’t need to download apps from an appstore: they will have all in one. JJ Moran‘s app made with the Unity game engine shows a preview of what this app will look like. “After conceptualizing several possibilities it was decided that from an astronaut’s perspective, it would be best if the map product could be integrated with an existing GUI. This GUI could hypothetically be a single interface the astronauts could use for communications, mission updates, and map data.” – JJ says.