Astronomical Map Projection

I've been enjoying a cool website called Astronomy Image Explorer (, which aims to provide image search for our scientific literature.

I think this is a brilliant idea because most astronomers read a lot of journal papers, often searching through them for a very specific result or point. As such, the graphs are usually the most memorable piece of the paper. (Thus: you should invest time in to making your graphs clear and easy to read, but I digress) is somewhat limited in function compared to other image searching tools online. However, they specifically connect the image with figure captions and authors, which is awesome. While I'd still like to see things like TinEye (reverse image search), expanded logic operators, and more API support included, is a really neat idea!

I was playing with while at the "Thinking with your Eyes" symposium and wondered: what we could learn about the style/type of graphs and maps astronomers use? This is a broad question, and really in the domain of HCI/visualization research.

One simple avenue was to focus on maps, specifically map projections in astronomy. Often in figure captions the authors will state the type of map projection (which I would encourage!) particularly if the map covers a large field of view and distortion/projection effects are significant. So for a simple case study, I went looking for how many occurrences of different map projection names I could find in figure captions.

Of course this is not comprehensive in any way, but the results are interesting!

I'm just counting up the number of results when searching for each term. In the case of "Robinson", I did a search for "map" within the search for "robinson" (too many authors named Robinson came up).  The distribution matches my intuition, as I see mostly Aitoff (or Hammer-Aitoff) projections in papers. I also don't know what fraction of papers are indexed in this search.

A few projections I didn't find any results for include: Eckert, Pseudocylindrical, conic, gnomic, Dymaxion, and Goode Homolosine. A challenge for a future journal article, perhaps?

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