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Emporia State University

Explorations in Earth Science
Utilizing Instructional Technologies
A 2001
Eisenhower-Funded Workshop

Where in the World Are We?
created by Susie Ward Aber

Satellite images, aerial photography, traditional maps, and Global Positioning Systems will help to answer this question during this week long conference. In order to get the complete picture, we will begin from a distance.

The image to the left was taken from NSSDC Photo Gallery. It is a view over the Moon's north lunar pole (image retrieved, 1 March, 2006).

A closer view of Earth is on the right. This 1972 image was taken from NSSDC Photo Gallery (image retrieved, 1 March, 2006).

More details are available at and at the Earth Fact Sheet,

Some of the views of Earth we may never experience firsthand, fortunately NASA, NOAA, and others provide hundreds of thousands of images online for all to access. Satellites and manned space craft provide a platform to move in for a closer view of Earth.

Remotely sensed data is gathered by observation and measurement of objects from a distance and photography is the most common type of recording instrument. Different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum may be photographed using different films and filters and photographs are routinely taken in black and white, color-visible, color-infrared, and multiband types. An example of color-infrared film is given below where the film is exposed to green, red, and near-infrared wavelengths that are depicted in blue, green and red in the photo. This shifting of bands to visible colors is called false-color. Paris, France and Kansas City, Missouri are shown below. For more information visit Remote Sensing Techniques by James S. Aber.

A special false-color composite of Paris. Active
vegetation is orangish-brown, suburban area is
yellowish- green, and the core urban area is blue.

This natural color composite depicts the urban
area in white (highways and buildings), muddy
brown water, and vegetated areas in dark green.
Both images are taken from Landsat Image Interpretation
by James S. Aber.

Approaching Earth more closely, high and low altitude photography is shown below. In order to observe Earth using aircraft platforms, NASA flights began in 1966 and the military flights even earlier.

Coverage of Washington, DC is shown in this
National High Altitude Photography,
which was a program initiated by the USGS in 1980.

Loose Park and housing near the Plaza,
Kansas City, Missouri as seen from the kite!
Taken from Gallery of Kite Aerial Photographs by J.S. and S.W. Aber.

Back on the ground, life is shown in the perspective we are used to! Although I must repeat, where in the world is this workshop being held?!? No participants could find their way to Emporia, Kansas even if we provided color-visible photographs of the campus, city, state, country, continent, or Earth. Thus, we are indebted to cartography, the science and art of making maps. The oldest known maps were preserved on Bablyonian clay tablets from over 4000 B.C.E. Cartography advanced with the Greeks, culminating with Claudius Ptolemaeus' (Ptolemy, A.D. 90-168) Guide to Geography (Geographike hyphygesis), which was the authorative reference until the Renaissance (Brief History of Maps and Cartography).
Prof. Charles B. Creager Kansas Rock Garden
Emporia State University, Emporia Kansas.
Photo taken by James S. Aber

Ptolemy's map of the world, A.D. 150
Taken from Whitfield, 1994, p. 8-9 and the
Brief History of Maps and Cartography
Cartography continued to advance during the Age of Exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries, when Gerardus Mercator of Flanders was a leading cartographer. Each map begins with a projection and Mercator developed the cylindrical projection that is still widely used for navigation charts and global maps.

A map projection is used to portray a round Earth on a flat surface, which is not possible without some distortion. There is no one best projection, although the Mercator projection has little or no distortion when creating maps from satellites. The Mercator yields a map with straight lines but distances and areas are grossly distorted near the polar regions.

Maps have become increasingly accurate and factual in the 18th and 19th centuries, although much of the world was poorly represented until the widespread use of aerial photography following World War II. In order to look back at Earth from a distance, modern cartography, a combination of ground observations and remote sensing, has emerged in a digital format. The static, traditional paper map still exists beside the constantly changing digital map and geographic information systems is responsible for the shift. GIS collects, stores, analyzes, and displays georeferenced data about Earth and has become a valuable cartographic tool.
Even though GIS handles data in a digital map format, maps are still human representations. No map can be a realistic representation of the actual world. Maps are filtered to concentrate on physical, biological, or cultural features in symbolic styles, the products of human endeavor...
Whitfield (1994, p. 78-79)
(Brief History of Maps and Cartography).

So...Where in the world was this conference?!?

If all of the views of the globe were flattened...

NOAA's Worldview based on elevation information.

... the conference is taking place on the North American continent, located in the center of the United States.

Taken from the USGS National Elevation Dataset.

As political boundaries emerge, Kansas is in the center; within the state, the conference will be held in Emporia. Emporia is located at a crossroad of several state and interstate highways. Science Hall is building 15 on the Emporia State University campus.

Taken from

Taken from ESU

Activities and Resources

Earth From An Astronaut's Eye   

Worldview Maps

Remote Sensing Treasure Hunt

Online Cartographic Resources

Print Reference

Whitfield, P. 1994. The image of the world: 20 centuries of world maps. Pomegranate Artbooks, San Francisco, 144 p.

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Created July, 2001; last update March 1, 2006. Thanks for visiting! This page originates from the Earth Science department at Emporia State University. For more information contact S. W. Aber, e-mail:

copyright 2001-2006 © Susan Ward Aber. All rights reserved.