Creating Custom Map Images of Earth and Other Worlds

LuAnn Dahlman, Center for Science Teaching and Learning at TERC,, Author

Lou Estey, UNAVCO,, Developer of Jules Verne Voyager

Published: January 2006. Last Updated: May 2011.


Two examples of images you can produce using the Voyager map tool. The "local" map on top is centered on Greenland; the corresponding "index" map (viewed from space) is displayed below. Volcanoes are indicated by orange triangles, and plate tectonic boundaries are in light blue. Click the image to see a larger view in a new window.

In this chapter you will become familiar with Jules Verne Voyager, a freely-available online map tool that includes data for Earth as well as 19 other planets and moons. You will create a variety of map images and then save and import the images into a presentation or a word-processing document.

While working on this chapter, you will learn to request specific maps and use Voyager's navigation tools to zoom, pan, and create views of planets as seen from space. While exploring you will specify a map's center point, spatial extent, and width by modifying the URL of the data request.

There is a large range explore of data that are available to create map images: 100 different types of data are available to characterize portions of Earth. With Jules Verne Voyager, you can create maps that range from simple outlines of countries or tectonic plates to more complex images that include elevation data or show the age of the seafloor. In addition to data for Earth, Voyager has at least one type of data for all planets and moons of the inner solar system. Recent data for Jupiter, Saturn, and many of their moons are also available.

In the final part, you will learn a technique that is useful for comparing different planetary bodies: and you will create map images to compare features from different worlds at the same scale. For instance, a map area showing 100 square kilometers on Mercury can be created and compared with a map showing 100 square kilometers on Earth. Additionally, you can can create planet-from-space views of each world that accurately represent the planets' relative sizes.

This chapter is part of the Earth Exploration Toolbook. Each chapter provides teachers and/or students with direct practice for using scientific tools to analyze Earth science data. Students should begin on the Case Study page.

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