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The Atlas Portal

Political and physical world map from the end of 2005

An atlas is a collection of maps; it is typically a bundle of maps of Earth or a region of Earth.

Atlases have traditionally been bound into book form, but today many atlases are in multimedia formats. In addition to presenting geographic features and political boundaries, many atlases often feature geopolitical, social, religious and economic statistics. They also have information about the map and places in it.

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Yellowstone National Park, 1871
Credit: F.V. Hayden, Library of Congress
Map of Yellowstone National Park, 1871. Created one year before the park was formed.

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Screenshot of NASA World Wind

A virtual globe is a 3D software model or representation of the Earth or another world. A virtual globe provides the user with the ability to freely move around in the virtual environment by changing the viewing angle and position. Compared to a conventional globe, virtual globes have the additional capability of representing many different views on the surface of the Earth. These views may be of geographical features, man-made features such as roads and buildings or abstract representations of demographic quantities such as population. The first widely publicized virtual globe was Google Earth.

Virtual globes may be used for study or navigation (by connecting to a GPS device) and their design varies considerably according to their purpose. Those wishing to portray a visually accurate representation of the Earth often use satellite image servers and are capable not only of rotation but also zooming and sometimes horizon tilting.

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Star map by Su Song

Su Song (10201101 AD) was a renowned Chinese statesman, astronomer, cartographer, horologist, pharmacologist, mineralogist, zoologist, botanist, mechanical and architectural engineer, and ambassador of the Song Dynasty.

Su Song was the engineer of a water-driven astronomical clock tower in medieval Kaifeng depicted in his horological treatise, Xin Yi Xiang Fa Yao, which employed the use of an early escapement mechanism, armillary sphere and the oldest known endless power-transmitting chain drive, called the tian ti, or "celestial ladder". He also completed a large celestial atlas of several star maps, several terrestrial maps, as well as a treatise on pharmacology.

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