Emily Lakdawalla • Mar 05, 2008
Phobos arts and crafts
A Georgia architect named Chuck Clark has been experimenting for several years with a technique called "Constant Scale Natural Boundary Mapping," a geometric method for making a two-dimensional map of a three-dimensional object that can be cut and folded into a reasonable representation of the actual thing. He'll be presenting his Phobos and Deimos maps (PDF, 650k), and his method, in a poster at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference next week. He recently posted a new constant scale natural boundary map of Mars' moon Phobos, and I thought I'd give the assembly a try. Here's the map, which I printed onto a letter-sized piece of card stock:
- Cut out the map, leaving about a quarter inch (5 mm) of paper around all the edges.
- You will need to cut off most of this extra paper, but leave tabs as necessary so that you can glue or tape the edges together. Generally, it's best to leave a tab on the concave side of a seam, and cut off the paper on the convex side of a seam.
- To help things fold flat, you need to snip notches into your tabs, making no tab longer than about 1/2 inch (1 cm) along the seam. If you're familiar with sewing, this is usually referred to as "clipping curves."
- Start gluing together the seams. I started in the narrowest notches first, applying a little white glue to a tab and bringing the other side over and squeezing it together for 10 seconds or so with thumb and forefinger, then I applied some transparent tape on the back side for good measure.
- You'll have to strategize about where your last seam is going to be, since you'll no longer be able to get a finger inside the model to apply counterpressure. I found it easiest to make the last seam one of the pretty straight ones.
- Chuck Clark actually seems to assemble these without glue, just using a little tape here and there across the seams. To join the last seam, he recommends a narrow rod or straw be inserted through a gap antipodal to the spot you need to tape, to allow you to apply counterpressure.
In the photo below, I've rotated my glued-together model to match the viewing geometry. My thumb sort of traces out the terminator (day-night boundary) -- there's quite a bit of Phobos that we can't see in the Mars Express image because it was night there when the photo was taken. This totally does not match the mental model I had for the photo -- I'm going to have to try to keep my Phobos model from getting crushed and pull it out every time I see a new image!
You Can Be a Planetary Defender!
Support the team of astronomers defending Earth with a gift today.Defend Earth