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The Best View of Earth?
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Vocabulary
 challenging words: planar, mercator, cartographers, projection, distort, distortion, meridian, accurate, addition, based, parallel, navigation, prime, plot, view, refer content words: South America, North Pole, United States

 The Best View of Earth? By Trista L. Pollard

1     A journey into the world of maps introduces you to globes, map symbols, legends, and directions. You are even told there are different types of maps for different purposes. However, did you know that globes are the most accurate model of our planet? That's right; if you want the best view of Earth, globes are the way to go. Before you run out and fill your bedroom with globes, there is something you should know. In addition to being hard to carry in your pocket, globes do not show much of the surface detail. The tool that is best for that job is a flat map.

2     Cartographers produce flat maps of the Earth's curved surface by using projections. There are three main types of projections called cylindrical, conical, and planar or azimuthal. All of these projections distort the Earth's surface. This makes sense! Imagine opening up a plastic globe from pole to pole along the prime meridian. Now imagine flattening the two halves on your desk at school. The continents would probably look funny, even odd. That's because the drawings of the land features were done to specific measurements based on a curved surface. That is distortion.

3     Cylindrical projections or mercator projections produce a map that looks like it was on a larger cylinder, wrapped around our planet. You will recognize this map because the latitude and longitude lines are straight. Together, these lines of parallel and meridian form a grid of rectangles. Maps with mercator projections are used for sea and air navigation. Why? On these maps the entire world is shown. The only areas not shown are the areas near the poles. Sailors and pilots can map their journey by drawing a straight line from point to point. One disadvantage about this map is that areas far away from the equator are distorted. These areas look larger than they are in real life. On a mercator map, Greenland is greater in size than South America. In real life South America is almost eight times larger than Greenland.

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