Planetary Map Symbols for GIS-based Mapping

The steadily growing international interest in the exploration of planets in our Solar System and many advances in the development of space-sensor technology have led to the launch of a multitude of planetary missions to Mercury, Venus, the Earth\u2019s moon, Mars and various Outer-Solar System objects, such as the Jovian and Saturnian satellites. Camera instruments carried along on these missions\u2019 image surfaces in different wavelength ranges and under different viewing angles, permitting additional data to be derived, such as spectral data or digital terrain models. Such data enable researchers to explore and investigate the development of planetary surfaces by analyzing and interpreting the inventory of surface units and structures. Results of such work are commonly abstracted and represented in thematic, mostly geological and geomorphological, maps. In order to facilitate efficient collaboration among different planetary research disciplines, mapping results need to be prepared, described, managed, archived, and visualized in a uniform way. These tasks have been increasingly carried out by means of computer-based geographic information systems (GIS or GI systems) which have come to be widely employed in the field of planetary research since the last two decades. Focusing on the simplification of mapping processes and putting specific emphasis on a cartographically correct visualization of planetary mapping data within GIS environments (especially ArcGIS (ESRI)), we present the implementation of a set of standardized cartographic symbols for planetary mapping based on the Digital Cartographic Standard for Geologic Map Symbolization as prepared by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC). The symbols can be embedded into the ArcGIS environment.

User manual for cartographic symbols in ArcGIS

The symbol catalogue is based on the FGDC Standard for \u201cDigital Cartographic Standard for Geologic Map Symbolization\u201d ( We implemented the section 25 Planetary Geology Features, and single symbols of section 12 \u2013 Fluvial and Alluvial Features, 18 \u2013 Volcanic Features and 33 \u2013 Suggested Ranges of Map Unit Color for stratigraphic Ages of Sedimentary and metamorphic rocks (see the attached Standard sections). Please download the \u201cUser manual for cartographic symbols in ArcGIS\u201d first to get start working with the planetary symbols.

For questions, comments or criticism and if you need more symbols for spatial features, please contact: andrea.nass(at)



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Last update: 30/11/2010 10:59