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Projections

# Projections

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02/15/2014

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A
map projection
is any method of representing thesurfaceof a sphere or other shape on aplane.Map projections are necessary for creating maps. All map projections distort the surface in some fashion. Depending on the purpose of the map, some distortions are acceptable and others are not; thereforedifferent map projections exist in order to preserve some properties of the sphere-like body at theexpense of other properties. There is no limit to the number of possible map projections.

Background
For simplicity, this article usually assumes that the surface to be mapped is the surface of a sphere.However, the Earth and other sufficiently large celestial bodies are generally better modeled asoblatespheroids,and small objects such as asteroids may have irregular shapes. These other surfaces can bemapped as well. Therefore, more generally, a map projection is any method of "flattening" into a plane acontinuous surface having curvature in all three spatial dimensions.
Projection
as used here is not limited toperspective projections, such as those resulting from casting a shadow on a screen. Rather, any mathematical function transforming coordinates from the curved surfaceto the plane is a projection.Carl Friedrich Gauss'sTheorema Egregiumproved that a sphere cannot be represented on a plane without distortion. Since any method of representing a sphere's surface on a plane is a map projection, allmap projections distort. Every distinct map projection distorts in a distinct way. The study of mapprojections is the characterization of these distortions.A mapof the earth is a representation of a curved surface on a plane. Therefore a map projection must have been used to create the map, and, conversely, maps could not exist without map projections. Mapscan be more useful thanglobes in many situations: they are more compact and easier to store; they readily accommodate an enormous range of scales; they are viewed easily on computer displays; theycan facilitate measuring properties of the terrain being mapped; they can show larger portions of theEarth's surface at once; and they are cheaper to produce and transport. These useful traits of mapsmotivate the development of map projections.
Metric properties of maps

AnAlbers projectionshows areas accurately, but distorts shapes.
Many properties can be measured on the Earth's surface independently of its geography. Some of theseproperties are:
ScaleMap projections can be constructed to preserve one or more of these properties, though not all of themsimultaneously. Each projection preserves or compromises or approximates basic metric properties indifferent ways. The purpose of the map determines which projection should form the base for the map.Because many purposes exist for maps, many projections have been created to suit those purposes.Another major concern that drives the choice of a projection is the compatibility of data sets. Data sets aregeographic information. As such, their collection depends on the chosen model of the Earth. Differentmodels assign slightly different coordinates to the same location, so it is important that the model beknown and that the chosen projection be compatible with that model. On small areas (large scale) datacompatibility issues are more important since metric distortions are minimal at this level. In very largeareas (small scale), on the other hand, distortion is a more important factor to consider.
Which Map is Best?
Cartographers have long despaired over publishers' inapt use of the Mercator.

As a 1943 New YorkTimes editorial states,
"...The time has come to discard [the Mercator] for something that represents thecontinents and directions less deceptively... Although its usage... has diminished... it is still highly popular