A little more Space in Spatial Analysis

Missed this post from Stargazer on GIS in space.

If the options for geo-spatial analysis offered by this planet are not satisfying, there is an alternative. GIS is not just being used on Earth but is also being used to map planets across the solar system. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Research Program using datasets provided by NASA has made several maps of space bodies.

After all of NASA’s missions over the years, there is a huge amount of planetary data lying around. That’s where Planetary Data System (PDS) comes into play. According to NASA’s site, PDS “archives and distributes digital data from past and present NASA planetary missions, astronomical observations, and laboratory measurements.” It is sponsored by NASA’s Office of Space Science to make this data available for research and analysis purposes.

PDS is composed of seven different “nodes” of research that analyze specific elements of the huge amount of data provided within PDS. One such node is the Imagining Node, run by the USGS and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This node “provides to the NASA planetary science community the digital image archives, necessary ancillary data sets, software tools, and technical expertise necessary to fully utilize the vast collection of digital planetary imagery.”

So when does GIS come in? USGS has something called Planetary Interactive G.I.S.-on-the-Web Analyzable Database. In addition to being a funny sounding acronym, PIGWAD allows spatial data layers for Venus, Mars, Mercury, the Moon and the Jovian satellites: Io, Ganymede, and Callisto to be downloaded as ESRI shapefiles. This means you can use the data on ArcView! Also available for download is the metadata for each layer, as well as a screenshot of the layer. If you don’t want to download but just take a peep, you can also look at layers and images online using ArcExplorer.

The USGS website also has an awesome program called Map-a-Planet. This allows you to make customized maps of several planets with a click of a mouse that are then available for download. This site uses cartographic software called MapMaker to make maps out of Planetary Data System layers and images. It has three levels of functionality, so GIS novices can use the easy version whereas GIS nerds (like us) can use the advanced version.

If you want to map not only individual planets but the whole sky, you can download a program called AV_STARS which is a Celestial Mapping Project for ArcView.

Happy Space Mapping!

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