Globes of the Solar System

If you’re interested in buying a globe of a world not the Earth, you have three options available.

The Moon

Replogle's globe of the Moon Replogle makes a 12-inch globe of the Moon that is touted as being NASA-approved. It rests on a clear plastic base, from which it can be picked up and moved. I bought one a few weeks ago, and it’s not without a few disappointments.

For one thing, there isn’t much contrast between the lunar maria, which are quite dark in real life, and the lighter-coloured lunar highlands, which makes it hard for me to use as a reference when looking at, say, my own photographs of the Moon. Similarly, the crater Tycho, which is crazy prominent through a telescope thanks to its prominent ray system, is hard to find on this globe, which seems absolutely, totally and in all other ways inconceivable to me.

Other nitpicks: the Apollo 11 landing site is labelled, but not other sites, though diamond markers appear to label the sites for Apollo 14 and 15, which if true would be inconsistent. And “Sea of Tranquility” is misspelled. Is my impression that this globe has been in production for a while correct?

Still, if you want a globe of the Moon, this is your best (if not only) option, and, despite my nitpicks, at $50-60 it’s reasonably priced. You’ll probably be able to find it at most map, nature and telescope stores.


Sky and Telescope's Mars globe As for Mars, Sky and Telescope sells a Martian globe based on imagery from the Viking orbiters. Another collaboration, this time with NASA and the USGS, and resting on a plastic base similar to Replogle’s Moon globe, this 12-inch globe is both more colourful and, at $100, more expensive.

There was also a topography globe of Mars, based on colour shaded relief imagery from the Mars Global Surveyor (the same used in the elevation layer of Google Mars), but it appears to have been discontinued.


Sky and Telescope's Venus globe Finally, the strangest globe has to be Sky and Telescope’s globe of Venus. Similar in dimensions, base and cost to the Mars globe, it looks absolutely alien. It’s a globe of a world we never see, thanks to Venus’s thick clouds, and it’s a false-colour globe, using radar data from the Magellan mission (with gaps filled by data from the Soviet Venera 15 and 16 probes as well as Earth-based radar).

Other Worlds

No globes are available for sale for any other planets or moons in our solar system, and I don’t expect that to change in the near future. Mercury is still being mapped, there’s no point in mapping gas giants, and there is almost certainly not enough interest to produce globes of the moons of the outer planets. Even so, the USGS’s Astrogeology Research Program has globe gores for three of Jupiter’s moons — Callisto, Europa and Ganymede — so they’re there if you want them.