The Atlas of Space: Behold Brilliant Maps of Constellations, Asteroids, Planets & “Everything in the Solar System Bigger Than 10km”

A great deal remains to be learned about our solar sys­tem, but a great deal has already been learned about it as well. Yet huge amounts of data such as those pro­duced by out­er-space research so far can’t do much for us unless we can inter­pret them. Luck­i­ly, the age of the inter­net has made pos­si­ble unprece­dent­ed­ly easy access to data as well as unprece­dent­ed­ly easy dis­tri­b­u­tion of inter­pre­ta­tions of that data. Eleanor Lutz, a biol­o­gy grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton and the cre­ator of the sci­ence illus­tra­tion blog Table­top Whale, has tak­en advan­tage of both con­di­tions to wow her ever-grow­ing fan base with her maps of the realms beyond Earth.

Atlas of Space, her lat­est project, is all about the solar sys­tem,” writes Wired’s Sara Har­ri­son. “She plumbed the depths of pub­licly avail­able data sets from agen­cies like NASA and the US Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey and used them to cre­ate vivid maps of con­stel­la­tions, aster­oids, and plan­ets. In one image, lumi­nes­cent bands of fuch­sia and aqua­ma­rine aster­oids swirl around the bright, white point of the Sun. In anoth­er, Earth seems to pul­sate as an ani­ma­tion of Arc­tic sea ice shows how it extends down the con­ti­nents dur­ing the win­ter and then retracts back to the poles in sum­mer.”

Lutz plans to release all the images she has cre­at­ed for her Atlas of Space over the next few weeks, along with instruc­tions teach­ing read­ers how to cre­ate sim­i­lar illus­tra­tions them­selves. In her intro­duc­to­ry post to the project, she promis­es “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.”

Lutz also briefly describes her plans to write about every­thing from “work­ing with Dig­i­tal Ele­va­tion Mod­els (DEMs) in Bash and Python” to “using the NASA HORIZONS orbital mechan­ics serv­er and scrap­ing inter­net data” to “updat­ing vin­tage illus­tra­tions and paint­ing in Pho­to­shop.” That last ele­ment has already made the project par­tic­u­lar­ly eye-catch­ing: you’ll notice the Atlas of Space pages pub­lished so far, “An Orbit Map of the Solar Sys­tem” and “A Topo­graph­ic Map of Mer­cury,” both pos­sess a strong retro design sen­si­bil­i­ty, though each of a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent kind. Levi Wal­ter Yag­gy would be proud — and no doubt aston­ished by just how much more infor­ma­tion we’ve man­aged to gath­er about the solar sys­tem over the past 130 years.

via Wired

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Strik­ing­ly Beau­ti­ful Maps & Charts That Fired the Imag­i­na­tion of Stu­dents in the 1880s

A Plan­e­tary Per­spec­tive: Tril­lions of Pic­tures of the Earth Avail­able Through Google Earth Engine

3D Map of Uni­verse Cap­tures 43,000 Galax­ies

A Mas­sive, Knit­ted Tapes­try of the Galaxy: Soft­ware Engi­neer Hacks a Knit­ting Machine & Cre­ates a Star Map Fea­tur­ing 88 Con­stel­la­tions

The Solar Sys­tem Quilt: In 1876, a Teacher Cre­ates a Hand­craft­ed Quilt to Use as a Teach­ing Aid in Her Astron­o­my Class

The Solar Sys­tem Drawn Amaz­ing­ly to Scale Across 7 Miles of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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