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Multilingual glossary of planetary mapping terms and their interpretations


Rozhnev I.: Multilingual planetary cartography glossary. New version. 25th ICC, Paris, 3-8 July, 2011.

Shingareva, Kira; B.V.Krasnopevtseva, James R. Zimbelman, Rufino Perez Gomez, Antonio Vazquez Hoehne, Manfred Buchroitner, Egon Dorrer: A new version of the multilingual planetary cartography glossary Proceedings of the 23rd International Cartographic Conference, Moscow, Russia (Planetary Cartography Session)  (2007)


Glossary versions

Note: the latest version has been published in print in Moscow, by MIIGAiK in 2011.

Glossary version presented at the ICC conference in La Coruna, Spain, July 2005 (PDF)

2001 version



The main goal of the development of the explanatory terminological dictionary in planetary cartography is to initially prepare an English glossary version with subsequent translation into a number of other languages. It was necessary to elaborate a basic  structure, to look for materials and present all the data according to this structure consisting of various groups of meanings and different languages. There exist disagreements and different interpretations both in terminology and in objects names.      

A preliminary version of the glossary, first issued forand presented at the ICC inBeijingin 2001, included about 150 terms, the number of which is constantly growing. It was the first attempt to collect these terms and give them some corresponding definitions. The Commission on Planetary Cartography has compiled a dictionary of terms frequently used on planetary maps as well as a list of terms in different languages, sometimes with very different meanings, that can be used to identify features on planetary maps. The dictionary has initially been written in English and also existed in Russian. These versions, however, existed in parallel without a real connection to each other. They do not offer the possibility to come at once from an English term to the corresponding term with the same meaning in Russian or in another language.

The dictionary has to comprehend frequently used terms on planetary maps as well as a list of terms used in various languages that can be applied to identify features on planetary maps, sometimes having very different meanings.

For the preliminary version some thematically distinct groups of terms were defined. They had to be obvious in the configuration of the dictionary in order to allow to make full use of it. At this point it is necessary to mention that the structure of the dictionary does not use the alphabetic order for the terms, at least not exclusively. This implies that the content was thematically divided and subdivided into six parts. Therefore it was necessary to add indices for the terms of each group and also to list the contents, with the terms of the respective group (section) in alphabetical order, separately for each part. The following parts have been defined:


(I). The first (general) section contains the basic terms outlining a series of objects, directly connected with planetary cartography. It comprehends such terms as space, near space, far space, solar system, planet, satellite, moon, leading hemisphere, trailing hemisphere etc.

(II). The second section defines the rigid-surface objects represented in planetary maps. These comprehend various kinds and types of general geographic and thematic maps, globes, solid terrain models of whole celestial bodies and parts of their surface. Here it turned out to be necessary to integrate a number of specifications and updatings to terminology. It is e.g. known that a globe is defined as the cartographic representation of the surface of a sphere, keeping geometrical similarity of the relief and a equality of the areas. However, for the creation of the Phobos Globe a tri-axial ellipsoid has been used. For asteroid modelling e.g., in general it is necessary to abstain from an analytical representation of the surface.

(III). The third section contains the basic terms which describe cartographic products in general and are not restricted to extraterrestrial objects. They include such terms as scale, cartographical projection, conventional signature, etc. Certainly, these commonly known and defined terms are available in many glossaries, but here they also seem to be pertinent, so that the user does not have to waste time with additional searches in other sources.

(IV).The fourth section (until present the most extensive one) represents the terms used for relief forms of extraterrestrial objects depicted in maps and having no terrestrial analogies. Particular explanations for the respective celestial bodies are given. At this point it is necessary to notice that by tradition these terms are taken from Latin. For the Mars e.g. there exist terms like chaos, domus or labyrinth, for Venus terms like terra,  tessera or corona,  on the Jupiter moons one finds maculas, faculas,  lineas etc. However, practically on all planets lineaments can be found.

(V). The fifth section includes the terrestrial terms used for relief forms of  extraterrestrial objects which have terrestrial analogies. They include craters, ridges, canyons, plateaus, plains, etc.  It is, however, necessary to note that for celestial bodies it is essential to emphasize e.g. the origin of craters (shock, volcanic, primary, secondary craters, etc.) through an explanatory term.

(VI). The sixth section contains the terms which reflect some specific peculiarities of  physical properties for celestial bodies, frequently depicted in their thematic maps. For example, albedo, isostatic anomaly, mascon, masmin, geoid, etc. belong to these terms.


Already at the 2001 ICC in Beijing it became clear that this project is very close to another activity of the ICA Commission on Planetary Cartography, namely the compilation and printing of the multilingual map series of planets and their moons. These maps contain collateral information printed in 5 languages (English, German, Russian, French and Spanish). Therefore the same group of languages was selected for the new version of the Planetary Dictionary.

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