View Full Version : My God... It's full of--

12-19-2007, 07:35 PM
--stars. So if you were going to map a three dimensional region of a galaxy (say a 20ly radius sphere or something), how would you go about indicating height and such. I imagine the best bet would be to pick a coordinate system and then draw the whole thing in perspective so that your "flat" (i.e. 0) plane diminished into the distance at least somewhat. Might you use size to indicate distance from the "viewer"? Color for star type, political allegiance, or population/importance (or whatever else might be relevant to your map)? Let's hear some thoughts. This is entirely hypothetical, so don't worry or anything, if you don't have an example.


12-19-2007, 09:01 PM
This is typically done in an isometric view with no real vanishing points or planes, but your idea sounds pretty good. Doing some Googling for galaxy map, Traveler, Star Wars, etc will usually bring you some examples.

The Cartographist
12-20-2007, 02:19 AM
I think that it really depends on the scale of the map that you are trying to produce.

For instance, a 20ly (I'm assuming ly = light year) radius map would NOT have all that many stars in it. [Centered on Terra, for instance, I think that you would only have on the order of 10-15, if even that.] In that case, I would recommend this:

An isometric view using polar coordinates, so that basically you are looking at a flat circular plate with spokes emanating from its center from a vantage point maybe 30-40 degrees above the plane of the plate. Then to indicate position of items in that area both above and below the plane, I would use dotted lines rising and dropping vertically from the plate ending at each object. What you then have is distance from plane (length of the dotted line) as well as position on the plate (indicated by a small black dot (or something) at the point on the plate where the dotted line would intersect the plane).

The problem with this representation is that as the number of objects increases, the dotted lines begin to obscure all of the objects. Additionally, the placement of the labels would have to be carefully determined.

I'm not sure if my description is clear enough. If I were at home right now (with access to my scanner) I would sketch something really quick by hand, scan, and post it. Hopefully, you bright cartographers can understand.

The Cartographist
12-20-2007, 02:32 AM
Some more thoughts:

As labelling could be problematic (depending on how much information you wanted to include at each point and the density of objects in the area), it might be advantageous to label each object, whether star, blackhole, etc. etc., with a two digit identifier. Then around the outside of the overall map, you have boxes (frames) for each object. Within that frame, you could include whatever other pertinent information is appropriate, i.e. star type, political allegiance, population, number of planets, and whatever else you are interested in.

For multi-planet systems, you could even do a 2D view of each solar system showing the number of planets, their distance from the star, etc. within their frames.

Back to the whole general concept of my representation: One problem that I see with it is that if there are incredibly large objects which cover a large swath of the area (rather than objects that are basically points such as stars, etc), it would be difficult to represent their position/shape within the spherical 3D space. Although you could just pick some points along the length of such an object to closely approximate it size/shape.

12-20-2007, 04:07 AM
When I read your post, I immediately thought of an old favorite video game I used to play on my Commodore 64 -- "Elite". The radar display showed enemy ships above and below an isometric field with vertical lines indicating the "height" from that field. ( I suppose that dates me, doesn't it?)

I got to messing around with the idea a bit in Photoshop and here's what I came up with. I scrapped the single "height" line and went with three -- one for each dimension. That way I wouldn't have so much math to do if I wanted accuracy.

With only 8 systems, there's room for more info, but in the long run, I think that the Cartographist is right. It would quickly get too busy as more systems get added... You would be best served by keeping that info in a seperate reference.

Thanks for the idea. I had fun putting my star map together. Oh, and if you're wondering, the map isn't accurate in the least. I just slapped the stars in any old place...

12-20-2007, 08:13 AM
Yeah after reading the top posts I thought immediately of Elite. A plane for the XY and a drop line to the Z.

Has anyone got a Zaon (.com) galactic system map link handy ? I have an image here and its beautiful though presumably copyright so I wont post it. Its the way to do it but I cant find a link on the site to any of their galactic maps.

Most stars sit in a plane around a galaxy so the only really important 3D nature is the relation between galaxies of which you wouldn't use a linear drive to get from one galaxy to another so the exact coordinates seem a bit pointless.

I think traditional mapping techniques break down with star systems.

12-20-2007, 10:54 AM
I thought of a slightly more recent correlation to mapping 3D space on a 2D map, the RTS game, Homeworld.

In it when issuing movement commands you would select the unit and drag a line along the x,y coordinate of the map then another click would dictate the z axis. This was represented as a right triangle with a point at the unit's location the end of the original line on the x/y plane and end of the z axis line.

Of coruse this is moot if you go for a software package designed for 3D mapping in space like NBOS Astrosynthesis, discussed in this forum recently.

Though my first thought is simply to map the x/y plane along the glactic plane and indicate the Z axis with a number next to the star's name.

12-20-2007, 11:23 AM
When I read your post, I immediately thought of an old favorite video game I used to play on my Commodore 64 -- "Elite". The radar display showed enemy ships above and below an isometric field with vertical lines indicating the "height" from that field. ( I suppose that dates me, doesn't it?)

Wasn't elit the game with the up to 5 different galaxies, you had a small ship, and started the game just running normal supplies (grain, etc) from system to system, and really, due to fuel capacity could not go far), but you could try for the big score by running slaves, narcotics, guns, etc to other systems, but doing so meant not only fighting pirates in the system, but law enforcement as well? And the spcae station were big Dodecohydrons usually like a 12 sided die, that you had to line up 'just right' to dock with?

If so, I LOVED that game. Of course, I usually ran slaves and stuff to make the big cash and trick my ship out reall quick.

12-20-2007, 12:08 PM
That's the one. A real classic of its time it was too. There was also a series of over-arching missions as well. The polar coordinate system that TC described is very close to the Elite HUD.