An Atlas of Space


I’m excited to finally share a new design project this week! Over the past year and a half I’ve been working on a collection of ten maps on planets, moons, and outer space. To name a few, I’ve made 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.

Over the next few weeks I want to share each map alongside the open-source Python code and detailed tutorials for recreating the design. All of the astronomy data comes from publicly available sources like NASA and the USGS, so I thought this would be the perfect project for writing design tutorials (which I’ve been meaning to do for a while).

I’m still working on finishing all of the tutorials (there’s a lot of information I want to cover!). But here’s a list of everything I’m planning to talk about for sure: Working with Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) in Bash and Python. Working with ESRI shapefiles in Python. Using the NASA HORIZONS orbital mechanics server and scraping internet data. Working with NASA image data. Combining many datasets into one map. Color palettes and style design. Updating vintage illustrations and painting in Photoshop. Plotting with symbols and different languages in Matplotlib. Editing Python outputs in Illustrator. Using the IAU Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. Map projections in Python Cartopy. Mapping constellations using star catalog data.

I originally learned Python for my grad school research, which involved processing video recordings of mosquito behavior. I really liked the language, and in the past few years I’ve been using Python extensively for data management and design. I also love teaching Python (I volunteer for Software Carpentry, and I taught Data Science for Biologists at UW last year with Bing Brunton and Kam Harris). So if you’re interested in beginner-friendly explanations of Python cartography, web scraping, or using the NASA orbital mechanics server, check back here next week for the first map tutorial! Up next week - A map of everything in the solar system bigger than 10km.

An Atlas of Space
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