Multilingual Planetary Maps

This effort was organized initially through the cooperation of Dresden TU (Germany) and Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography (Russia) and to date two full editions have been successfully published.

Future plans

Updating of the Multilingual Maps of Terrestrial Planets and their Moons series

  • Special focus on the new map of Mercury
  • Initiating and international discussion and possibly publication on the possibilities and rationalities of publishing planetary maps for language groups that use a non-latin alphabet (Chinese, Japanese, Arabic etc.)
  • Discussion and production on new thematic maps that combine topography, geology and morphology
  • Production of a new generation of landing site maps using new visualization methods
  • Creation of an established visualization method for large scale planetary maps that may be used for landing site selection
  • As a continuation of the above mentioned multilingual series, its extension to the Jovian and Saturnian moons during this term, at least for one language group.


The preliminary version of the Map of Mars at a scale of 1:35.000.000 was initiated by the Moscow State University for Geodesy and Cartography (MIIGAiK) in cooperation with the Institute for Cartography in the Technology University of Dresden (TUD) (Buchroithner 1999) MIIGAiK produced the compilation of the map with shaded relief representation and selected scientific information. TUD translated all the information in other languages, prepared the maps and the scientific information and printed them. The display of this map within the scope of the National Map Exhibition at the 1997 ICA Conference in Stockholm served as a test whether there is international interest in such maps.

After some discussion the final version of the map of Mars was prepared. The overwhelmingly positive response encouraged us to proceed with the production of a map of higher quality. The preprint had a format of 77 x 57.5 cm, the two hemispheres having a diameter of 27.5 cm. In addition to the map itself, additional information was printed around the two Mars hemispheres in five languages, in bright red, with lettering in black. Since the main goal of the Mars map was the high-accuracy depiction of its overall relief, we looked for a quality representation. This was a pencil-made manual hill-shading on transparency film, at a scale of 1:25 000 000 and was based on the Map by H. Wolf (1984) as well as images acquired by various Mars missions (Mariner, Mars, Viking missions). It simulates west illumination with an elevation angle of 40°±3°. So far, this pencil drawing on film appears to be the most adequate depiction of the diverse geomorphologic features of the whole planet: volcanic cones, table mountains (mesas), grabens, valleys etc. are clearly perceivable. The hillshading was produced by G. S. Grigoryeva, L. S. Oreshina and L. Baeva of the Laboratory of Planetary Cartography of MIIGAiK. The overall quality, richness in detail and original size of the shading resulted in a final map scale of 1:25 000 000 (38.4 cm diameter/hemisphere).

Soon it became clear that it would be advisable to print all the collateral information in text blocks in the back side instead of the front side. For the production process, conventional reprographic methods were applied, using a repro screen of 54 points/cm for the relief shading original. Attempts were made to optimize the reproduction of the relief representation, in particular to balance between the bright tones of the vastitates (plains) and the dark patches of the shady East-exposed slopes of volcanoes and grabens. The coordinate grid of the map whose geometry is based on the Transversal Equivalent Azimuth Projection of Lambert showed every twentieth parallel and meridian.

This map became the first phase of the project “Multilingual Planetary Map Series”. Using the same methods (preliminary version, discussion, final version), the maps of Venus, the Moon, and Mercury were prepared during the next five years. Although it is a series, each map has individual design characteristics. For instance half of the map of Mercury is a shaded relief map, while the other half is an albedo map, since today only 40% of Mercury has been adequately photographed for detailed representation. The celestial bodies’ hemispheres have the same printed sizes in this map series and hence the scales vary for each map.

By 2005 the following maps have been published: (preliminary/final versions) Mars  (Stockholm 1997 / Ottawa 1999), Venus (Beijing 2001 / St. Petersburg 2002) (Shingareva and Krasnopevtseva 2001), the Moon (St. Petersburg 2002 / Durban 2003) (Shingareva et al. 2002), Mercury (Durban 2003 / Moscow and Vladivostok 2004) (Shingareva et al. 2003). The map of Martian satellites Phobos and Deimos is in preparation, which will conclude the first part of the series. It is planned to continue by compiling the maps of the Jovian and other large satellites of the outer Solar System and also asteroids.

Detail from the map of Mars (Dresden)

Other editions of the series

The next phase of the Multilingual Map Series comprehended the compilation of planetary maps using the same shaded relief base maps, but for another group of languages and with some modifications concerning map content and its representation. This cooperation is organized by the Cosmic Materials Space Research Group of the Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest, Hungary) (ELTE) with consultations by Russian and German colleagues. The maps are a result of a cooperation of MIIGAiK, ELTE, the Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium in Brno, the Zagreb Astronomical Observatory, the Jagellonian University Observatory, the Tectonics and Geological Cartography Section of the Faculty of Geology at Warsaw University and the University of Architecture, Civil Engeneering and Geodesy in Sofia.

These editions contain additional multilingual information concerning planetary science results and specific characteristics of the planetary body relief, placed on the lower margins of the front sides of the maps and the whole back side (geography, geology, stratigraphy, history of discovery and full index of names).

These texts appear in Czech, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Croatian, Polish and English. In some cases it was the first time that a particular term (and its definition) was translated into one of these Central European languages. After compiling the first four maps it can be concluded that such work can effectively draw the attention of earth scientists to the specific features – and the mere existence – of other planetary bodies by simply discussing the translation of their terminology. Apart from circulating the maps in classrooms, this might be the most important scientific result of this edition.

The first map of the Central European version (Mars) was published in Budapest in 2001 (Fig 2). The maps of Mars and the Moon won prices of the Hungarian national Lázár Deák Map Contest in the category “Scientific Maps”. Until 2004, four sheets were published: Mars (2001), Venus (2003), Moon (2003) and Mercury (2004) (Hargitai et al. 2001-2004) (Fig 2-5). The Map of the Moon also appeared in the World Atlas of the Topográf Publishing Co. in Hungary, but with Hungarian nomenclature. (On the original maps the names of lunar maria appear in five languages while on the Mercury map, local equivalents of renaissance Italian and ancient Greek personal names are shown. For all other features, only their Latin name is shown.) We believe that detailed planetary maps should be included in World and school Atlases, since they can well emphasize the uniqueness of our own planet while showing the otherwise unknown richness of others, which can most easily presented in the form of well prepared maps.

A new, improved edition of the Venus Map was made in Polish and Hungarian for use in the recent Venus transit events. In this map, the visual appearance has been modified: the original pencil drawing was mixed with actual radar image patches and vector symbols. The new edition uses symbols for features which would otherwise be too small for the representation at the given scale. For the improvement of the overall “3D” appearance, a limb darkening shading method was used. For the impact craters radar images were used instead of the drawing, which represents their actual ejecta characteristics more realistically. Lava channels are shown by yellow lines that follow the meanderings of the channels. The same method was used for fossae. Some lava flows that appear in the radar images are also shown. The elevated terrae got a darker brownish hue, while lower planitiae (plains) are shown in a light orange resulting in a “warm/hot” appereance. The locations of some of the smaller „geologic hot spots” (“ticks”, farra etc.) are also shown. We have added several new names to the nomenclature appearing on the map and used different font faces for the different features, taking terrestrial physical geographic maps as samples. Wherever possible, the names appear parallel to the latitude grid.

The legend got more space and contains not only basic (morphologic) features defined with Latin terms by IAU, but also other features or landscape types which are only described and discussed in planetary science publications. In the legend, not only „official” IAU definitions are included, but also the morphologic description and geologic interpretation.

The maps of Mars (2003) and the Moon (2005) were reprinted in Croatia by the Zagreb Observatory with minor modifications (addition of names of ex-Yugoslavian origin, color changes etc.).

These maps of the Central European Edition are used by high-school and university students as well as amateur/hobby astronomers and are distributed in the East-Central European countries to high-school libraries, university bookshops, amateur astronomer observatories and planetaria. They are also available via internet for free pdf download at We plan to extend the series with new South African and Chinese editions and we are also looking for other groups who would localize and publish other regional editions.

Since it is important that the maps reach as many readers as possible, it is planned to publish the series in a “compact” format, i.e. in a planetary atlas, primary designed for use in high schools. Such publication is jointly planned in Moscow and Budapest. Both “first” pan-European and “second” Central European series have been demonstrated in A Caruna (Spain) at the 2005 ICA Conference.

Map of Mars (Budapest)

Links to maps

You can find all maps in the International Cartography Database or in the website of the ELTE Cosmic Materials Space Res. Group

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