Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Science

Bonus: “Maunder Minimum”, Cartography, and Hevelius

Earlier this evening, I blogged about Cartography and the Moon, 1647 and Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687). While doing the research, I came across this image of Hevelius’ earliest drawing of sunspots. Since it wasn’t “Moon” related, my son, Jason ( check out his blog, “Jason’s Blog- Work in Progress”), said I should post it as a bonus feature. So, here it is!

AN EARLY DRAWING of the Sun and sunspots by Johannes Hevelius. Here Hevelius shows the path and changes in sunspots that crossed the disk of the Sun between May 22 and May 31 in 1643 as they were seen in Danzig. – NASA

So, what is the “Maunder Minimum“? ” The number of sunspots observed on the solar surface varies fairly regularly, with an average period of 11-years. However, if we look at the variation of the sunspot number with time, we find that for a period of about 70 years, from A.D. 1645 to 1715, practically no sunspots have been observed. In other words, during this time the solar cycle has been interrupted. This period of time is called the Maunder Minimum.[1]

Did You Know?

In 1679 the English astronomer Edmond Halley visited Hevelius and compared the use of a sextant having telescopic sights with Hevelius’ sextant with open sights. Hevelius showed that he could determine stellar positions about as accurately without a telescope as Halley could with one.



Editor’s Note: Featured image The Photosphere and Sun-spots is by S.P. Lngley | The Photosphere and Sun-spots | Popular Science Monthly, vol. 5 (September 1874)

Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Science

Cartography and the Moon, 1647

This Old Map…

In 1647, Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius published the Selenographia sive Lunae Descriptio (Selenography or the description of the moon). [Ed Note: Selenography is named after the Greek moon goddess Selene[1].]

Johannes Hevelius – via Encyclopedia Brittanica

Historian of astronomy Albert Van Helden explains:

In Selenographia he presented engravings of every conceivable phase of the Moon as well as three large plates of the full Moon: one of the ways the full Moon actually appeared through the telescope, one the way a maker of terrestrial maps might represent it (using the conventions of geographers), and one a composite map of all lunar features illuminated (impossibly) from the same side.[2]



Hevelius’ lunar map  influences astronomy, cartography, and navigation to this day by introducing us to longitudinal lines, necessary during the Age of Discovery when navigators had to figure out the difference between their local time and a distant reference point (the moon). They needed “a composite view that pictured the Moon in a way it never appeared in reality but was accurate in its placement of individual features,” Van Helden writes.[3]

Selenographia. Observations of the Moon.

Did you know?

A large crater on the western edge of the Ocean of Storms is named after Hevelius?

Hevelius Crater – NASA


Editor Note: If you enjoyed this Cartography post, check out the first in the series, Cartography and World Building.   Let me know what else you’d like to see…




Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Literature

Cartography and World Building

As an early reader, maps always kept me fascinated – especially when I had the image of where things were in my mind, only to be tracing the steps of the characters in Hundred Acre Woods and find that Rabbit’s house is closer than I thought it was. Plus, I always thought it was cool that Christopher Robin got to draw the map… I had many nights tracing the map trying to be in the room with him (hoping it was Me!)… from the note on it  “Drawn By Me And Mr Shepard Helpd.


There’s the map showing the way to Toad Hall and the surrounding environs in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. How interesting that the same cartographer  (Ernest H. Shepard) did the Hundred Acre Woods map, and the map to The Wind in the Willows.  Now I understand why I loved both of those books so much as a child!  Both maps had the same design style  and it made me feel comfortable  and familiar, as if I was with an old friend by my side as I read the books. There wasn’t a learning curve, I knew how the map would look, even as a young child so it was easier to follow.  Having both the black and white and colored maps1 on the endpapers in the book, it was magical to see the colors come to life before my very eyes.

The Wind in the Willows map, black and white, by E.H. Shepard
wind in willows color
The Wind in the Willows map, color, by E.H. Shepard

Then there’s the map of Emerald City and the Yellow Brick Road in Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Who didn’t want to take that walk down the road with Dorothy and Toto all the way to the Emerald City, with all the characters along the way. The movie was always on around Thanksgiving, and I had to watch it in my parent’s bedroom. To be fair, the Wicked Witch scared the daylights out of me … but I wanted those ruby slippers more than anything when I was younger.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s maps of Hobbiton and Middle Earth brought Tolkien’s world alive in my mind.

Map of Gondor from The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Kids of all ages know the layout of Hogwarts from the Marauder’s Map in Harry Potter. One realizes how much detail you can get by enhancing the reading with visuals.

The Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Authors who use maps, engage in world building by placing their characters inside the world and the geography of the area. Maps help readers, even at a young age, orient themselves to time and space and place. The legend of symbols helps them understand what a triangle is and what colors represent what topographical concept (rivers, mountains, roads).

Image result for map legends for young readers
Simple map legend

“But why are maps so useful when employed in literature, and in particular in children’s books? Much like the novels themselves, maps too tell stories, and so writers increasingly employ them within their books as a way to go beyond the words themselves. Not only do they provide us with further supplementary information to complement the story, but maps also have the potential to provide gateways to the imaginary lands which may otherwise only exist within our imaginations. By showing us the shape of the land, beautiful forests and daunting mountain ranges, they build on our imagination, encouraging us to go beyond the words themselves and inviting us into these fictional lands presented right before our very eyes.”2


1 Both the black and white and colored maps of The Wind in the Willows by E.H. Shepard come from Shepard’s website. Go take a peek and see what other childhood memories come up when you see all the cartography he has done!


Note: Featured Image of the Marauder’s Map courtesy of littlefallingstar