“Atlas of Moons”

The work entitled‘Atlas of Moons’ has been awarded the prize of Endesa Best of Show Award Digital. The work was published in National Geographic and the team behind it, shares with us some of what went in to creating the piece and the challenges they faced.

Could you briefly explain the idea behind the story?

To commemorate 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing, we created the The Atlas of Moons to put our moon into context amidst the 200 known moons in the solar system. We modelled and animated the orbit and relative speed of every moon around its host planet while visualizing major moons as interactive 3D globes, labelling many important geographic features. After setting up each planet system and moon with descriptive text, we also wanted to allow readers to go deeper, to explore what’s scientifically interesting about each moon and show what they have in common.

What creative processes did you use when working on the story?

The project began with paper sketches, and basic Illustrator design mockups to understand how to bring all of this material together. We also created in-browser prototypes integrating datasets with 3D graphics to prove what would be technically possible. Confident in a plan, we then started researching the science of moons, alongside cartography, data processing, and front-end development.

What was the main challenge when reporting on this story?

One of the major challenges of this project was integrating browser-rendered 3D globes with National Geographic cartographic conventions to visualize globe labels. We had to create a workflow that would enable cartographers to use our typical map-making tools and styles while rendering the result dynamically in the browser. Browser performance was also critical to tackle before our publishing deadline: how to best load in the textures and data for 30 labelled globes and orbital visualizations and have them render relatively smoothly across devices.

Brian T. Jacobs, graphic editor; Katie Armstrong, cartography; Matthew W. Chwastyk, cartography; Nadia Drake, text; Victoria Jaggard, text editor; Scott Zilmer, map editor; Scott Elder, research; Alexander Stegmaier, research; Emmet Smith, Creative Director; Susan Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief

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