US: A revised web page with new tools enabling researchers to link planetary features and names directly to programmes such as ArcGIS and GoogleEarth was unveiled recently, thus simplifying the work of standardising terminology and locations of planetary features throughout the solar system.
This new ‘web feature service’, which links the planetary database to the end-user’s programme, is part of a comprehensive renovation of the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature website. This website, run by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center, is the official site for accessing the current and complete list of International Astronomical Union approved names for rings, satellites, and features on the surfaces of planets other than Earth.
Once a user’s computer-mapping or Geographic Information Systems programme is linked, the user can explore the database using a variety of visualisation tools and detailed searches. The service ensures that updates, refinements, and additions to the planetary database are automatically streamed to the user, encouraging the consistent use of IAU approved planetary names. A web map service also allows users to link to and explore planetary maps hosted by the USGS. The web feature and map services both adhere to Open Geospatial Consortium standards.
The USGS runs this website to assist planetary scientists during the course of new missions. “We help scientists obtain IAU approved names in order to ensure that planetary features of high scientific interest, such as craters, mountains, and channels are officially named and described,” said Jennifer Blue, planetary nomenclature expert with the Astrogeology Science Center.
The new website is intended to enhance the user’s visual experience and provide intuitive and efficient exploration of the planetary nomenclature database. It provides an interactive homepage, complete with rotating planets, where users can quickly select a planet or body of interest. International Astronomical Union approved names are displayed as annotated points or areas on an image of the planet, where users can pan to different regions or zoom for increased detail.
The web feature and map services are the first of several improvements that will take place to the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature over the coming months and years.