Earth  ID: 5090

Map Projections Morph

Map projections are a way of representing regions on the surface of a spherical object on a flat surface. For example, a continent on the Earth can be represented on a flat map. There are many map projections, but some are more prevalent in our work with scientific visualization data. Map projections are chosen based on the characteristics required by researchers. There is no perfect way to represent a spherical surface on a flat map, so no matter what map projection is chosen distortions occur. Some projections can preserve properties like: area, shape, and direction; so, projections are chosen depending on the scientist's needs.

This visualization shows some of the more common projections that SVS has encountered. Some of these projections have parameters that change the central point of the projection. In those cases, the parameters are animated and shown in the lower left.

Also included in this visualization are circles/ovals that are similar to "Tissot's Indicatrices". These are all circles of the same size on the spherical earth. Map projections distort them depending on the projection. The area of every circle is 1 million km² or about the size of Egypt. With each projection, the distortions of these circles show how shape and area are distorted in different parts of the projection.

The following projections are shown:
  • equirectangular
  • robinson
  • mollweide
  • hammer
  • sinusoidal
  • polar stereographic
  • lambert azimuthal
  • albers equal area conic
  • wrapped to a sphere
  • mercator

Visualization Credits

Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC): Lead Visualizer
Laurence Schuler (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Technical Support
Ian Jones (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Technical Support
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Short URL to share this page:

Data Used:
GTOPO30 Topography and Bathymetry
Data Compilation - USGS
Terra and Aqua/MODIS/Blue Marble: Next Generation also referred to as: BMNG
The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

DLESE >> Mathematics
NASA Science >> Earth
SVS >> Map
SVS >> Mapping