This week’s selection is the Planet Mars Tactile Model by the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Valencia.
This is an unusual 3D model, as it’s designed for the visually impaired. It is a 3D representation of the surface of the Red Planet based on actual radar measurements taken by space probes.
However, the elevation is spectacularly exaggerated for this tactile model. If made to scale, the globe would be, for touch purposes, nearly a perfect sphere with no tactile elements.
It’s not just the vertical effect, as this 3D model has a number of additional interesting features.
You may notice a bizarre stripe running vertical on the tactile globe. This isn’t an actual Mars feature in real life — it would be extraordinarily interesting if so. Instead it’s a tactile representation of the zero degree meridian on the planet. This allows one to sense location while handling the globe.
The south pole of the model isn’t representative either, as it includes the mark of the Observatory.
The observatory recommends printing this item with a diameter of 200mm. They say:
“After tests, the best size for the globe has been found to be around 20 cm in diameter. Larger are cumbersome and smaller are confusing.”
This model then seems perfectly engineered for visually impaired use.
While researching this item, I noticed that the observatory actually has published several other similar tactile planet models, including Venus, Mercury, the Moon, and yes, even Earth.
There’s no word on whether they will produce tactile models for the gas giant planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune. But if they did, they’d have to be printed in cotton candy material.