Ordnance Survey releases digital map of Mars

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Navigation doesn’t always come naturally, and it’s going to get harder once we make it to other worlds. Luckily, Ordnance Survey are on the case, and have just released their first map of the surface of Mars.

The map, which has been published on Flickr, was created using open data from Nasa, and is the first time the Ordnance Survey have produced a cartographic chart of another planet. “Even though the principles are the same, the design and the aesthetics of an Earth map differ considerably from any planetary map that I’ve seen before,” said Chris Wesson, the cartographer who designed the map. “That, for me, is the biggest difference.” “[Planetary maps] often seem to be, as is their inherent nature, very scientific and unnatural in their presentation. We have set out from the start to treat the Mars data no different to how we would OS GB data or any other Earth-based geographic information or landscape.”

The map’s colour palette, contours and grid lines resemble a traditional map, though Wesson admitted to having struggled with the height information of the planet’s surface. “Mars is a very different topography to the Earth to map,” he said on the Ordnance Survey website. “The surface is very bumpy but at such a large scale I had vast expanses of land that appeared flat relative to the craters each of several thousands of metres deth, hence the need for different lighting and surface exaggerations. This varying topography led to several attempts by trial and error to find a workable contour interval. Also the contours, which I generated from the elevation data, were very complex and jagged in appearance; trying to smooth them was quite a challenge.”

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Adeline Darrow
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