And now for a sense of scale: a map of the U.S. overlaid on the Moon

Illustration for article titled And now for a sense of scale: a map of the U.S. overlaid on the Moon

The greatest distance between two points within the contiguous U.S. is 2,892 miles, stretching from Point Arena, CA to West Quoddy Head, ME*. The circumference of the Moon is 6,784. To help put the scale of each into perspective, redditor boredboarder8 decided to overlay one on top of the other, giving rise to the approximation you see above. [Click here for hi-res]

Writes boredboarder8:

It was difficult for me to fathom the size of the moon, thus inspiring the creation of this map. For me, this map puts the scale of the moon much smaller than I previously imagined. But it's really interesting hearing how others (already grasping the size of the moon) now see the US as larger. [Ed.: 'MURICA, amirite?]

It was one definitely a weird challenge to take a "flat" map of something on a sphere and project it onto a smaller sphere. Got mindfucked a few times along the way. Certainly take it only as an approximation, but what intrigued me the most is that the distance spanning the continental United States is roughly equal to a little less than half the circumference of the moon.


We repeat: this is just a rough estimate, but it's certainly good enough for government work when it comes to illustrating the Moon's relative dinkiness. (Or America's hulking hugeness, depending on how patriotic you're feeling.)

It's strange — when we imagine objects in our solar system (even ones we know to be "small," relative to other celestial bodies) I suspect that many of us regard them as just being unrelatably huge. They exist at scales so large, and at distances so vast, that numbers relating to mass, surface area and volume — descriptive though they may be — are rendered effectively meaningless.

So it's always nice when images like this come along that help put things into perspective, whether it's a side-by-side comparison of all the water on Earth relative to the Earth itself, a figure illustrating there's more water on Jupiter's moon Europa than there is on Earth, or a map of the U.S. slapped across the Moon's near-side.


* It's 2,901 miles from CA's North Farallon Island to ME's Sail Rock, which is located a few hundred yards beyond the Easternmost short of Quoddy Head, though whether these points are, in fact, "contiguous" with The Contiguous United States basically boils down to semantics.

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Now - if only Americans had any idea about geography, that might actually help......

I kid, I kid.

A little. ;)