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Periodically, when I need a moment to catch my breath in the office, I’ll pick up one of our seven 12-inch globes, twirl it in my hands, and study it. I have a favorite aspect of each one:
The names! What’s more fun than looking for your favorite composer, painter, sculptor, or writer immortalized on a surface feature? You can’t miss Rembrandt or Debussy or Hokusai — the craters bearing their names are colossal. But how about those of Rilke, Ovid, or Disney? (Yes, there’s one for old Walt.) They’re a bit more challenging to find. I always have to look just north of the equator for the name of my favorite literary and historic figure: Thoreau.
The Venus globe is particularly fun because we can see the surface! No planet-shrouding cloud cover to get in the way. And the surface of S&T’s globe has a lot of blues, greens, and browns, and much topographical diversity. Altogether it looks like another Earth, though obviously it’s utterly different. But that doesn’t stop you from looking at it like you do the globe of Earth — exploring the landscape virtually.
When you cup the Earth globe in your palms, the dearth of labels makes it feel that you’re actually holding our stunning planet in your hands. The only labels are for continents, oceans, major mountain ranges, and a few other essentials. Otherwise it’s just our beautiful blue world.
Beyond observing up close the large-scale features that we see in whole or in part every time the full Moon is up, I enjoy being able to see all the Apollo, Surveyor, and Luna landing sites at once — including, of course, everybody’s favorite, Apollo 11, July 20, 1969. Each landing site and date is labeled in yellow, to stand out from the white labels of geographic features.
Whenever I pick up our topographical Moon globe, I naturally gravitate to the Moon’s farside. There, in brilliant red, are the loftiest regions of our satellite, in and around the gigantic Hertzsprung and Korolev craters. That very red area offers a striking contrast to the extreme blue — to the south and at lower altitude — of the vast South Pole–Aitken Basin.
I can’t keep my eyes off the Valles Marineris on this globe — or any globe, map, or photo of Mars. The largest canyon in the solar system beyond Earth? Count me in. How many of us have thought: If only I could be set down in the middle of that chasm, with all the life-sustaining essentials I’d need, and just start exploring.
Finally, we have our topo Mars globe. And here I almost inevitably head straight for Olympus Mons, which, with the color differences to designate altitude changes, is smack in the middle of a very colorful area. The white at the top of the solar system’s largest known volcano gives way down its flanks to brown, pink, and finally yellow, before flattening out into the green of the Lycus Sulci and, farther west, the rich blue of the Amazonis Planitia.