Eleanor Lutz: An Orbit Map of the Solar System Poster
Eleanor Lutz: An Orbit Map of the Solar System Poster
Eleanor Lutz: An Orbit Map of the Solar System Poster
Eleanor Lutz: An Orbit Map of the Solar System Poster
Eleanor Lutz: An Orbit Map of the Solar System Poster
Eleanor Lutz: An Orbit Map of the Solar System Poster
Eleanor Lutz: An Orbit Map of the Solar System Poster

Eleanor Lutz: An Orbit Map of the Solar System Poster

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An Orbit map of the Solar System by Eleanor Lutz

This map shows the orbits of more than 18,000 asteroids in the Solar System. This includes everything we know of that’s over 10km in diameter - about 10,000 asteroids - as well as 8,000 randomized objects of unknown size.

Each asteroid is shown at its position on New Years’ Eve 1999, colored by type of asteroid.

All of the data for this map is shared by NASA and open to the public.

What about this project says Eleanor?

One of the biggest changes I made to this data was to re-project my map from a linear scale that showed true distance, to a radial logarithmic scale.

This perspective gives a lot of emphasis to the first billion kilometers from the sun, which is where most of the asteroids are in the main asteroid belt. But, it still includes the entire rest of the solar system, which means that I could include large band of Kuiper belt asteroids near the very edge of our solar system. 

I also used a separate logarithmic scale to visualize the diameter of each asteroid. The sketch below shows the difference between a linear scale (on the left) and a logarithmic scale (on the right). Both are scaled so that the smallest asteroids are visible on the screen. 

Instead of making each asteroid orbit the same length, I set the orbit paths to 40 years, but clipped shorter to a quarter of the orbit for the inner asteroids This helped visualize the asteroids in the outer solar system, while still keeping the inner solar system legible.

There wasn’t enough space to label every single asteroid, so I manually compiled a list of interesting asteroids, and plotted each of these in Python alongside the asteroid itself and a label line. Then I moved all of the asteroid labels by hand in Illustrator.

An information designer with a PhD in biology and data science, Eleanor specializes in science visualization and works as a Graphics Editor at The New York Times. She enjoys using bold colors, handling complex data, and learning about space exploration.


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