The floors and walls of UMD's Heller Hall are alive with color, vibrancy, and 3-D images. Two enormous floor maps (one 18 feet high by 40 feet wide and the other 11 feet high by 20 feet long) have been installed in the Department of Geological Sciences on the first floor of Heller Hall and are unique to UMD. The maps were printed by the Minnesota Science Museum, mounted directly on the floor and then waxed into place to become a permanent public display of the many complex features of the planet Earth. Nowhere else is this data set available for viewing on such a scale.
Soon, there will also be a large planet Venus wall mural located in the hallway outside of Chemistry Building, room 200. The giant images are attracting the attention and interest of students, staff, faculty and the public.
In addition to their stunning color and accuracy, the maps are made more interactive when viewed 3-demensionally with the help of special 3-D glasses. There are two different types of 3-D glasses--Chromodepth™ glasses for the two floor maps, and anaglyph red-blue glasses for the planet Venus wall mural.
The LANDSAT floor map was taken with LANDSAT, a satellite that takes pictures of the Earth from different viewpoints. In addition to its 3-D feature, the map offers a stunning, cloud-free view of the Earth's surface in three images: the north- and south-polar regions (each 4.5 feet diameter) and the main image (11 feet wide and 20 feet long).
LANDSAT images provide an opportunity to study many aspects of our planet, including human-induced changes. UMD's Department of Geology is hoping to use these images to provide students and the public as well with a better understanding of the planet Earth. Clearly visible on the maps are climate regions, ice-cover regions, plate boundaries and major lakes (even Lake Superior). The map illustrates how the continents once fit together and the differences in landmass through time.
The larger topography/bathymetry suite floor map (18 feet wide and 40 feet long) provides an image of the Earth's surface in a multitude of bright color that represent different levels of elevation on land and topography of the ocean basins (bathymetry). The colors were also selected to make the images 3-D when viewed through the Chromodepth™ glasses (available from the UMD Department of Geological Sciences).
North- and south-polar regions (each 4.5 feet diameter) accompany the topography map as well. The topographic maps offer clear views of continental mountain belts, broad continental shelves, extensive mountain ridges that cut the ocean basins and mark plate boundaries where new ocean crust forms, and deep ocean trenches were ocean crust is recycled to the Earth's mantle. The data and imagery were provided by David T. Sandwell of Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of California, San Diego) and Walter H. F. Smith of NOAA.
The 3-Demensional Venus wall mural further expands the Heller Hall Earth Science exhibits. The Venus wall mural (8 feet high and 18 feet long) is on display in the hallway outside of Chemistry Building, room 200. This 3-D display offers a big-picture view of a complete global swath of Venus' surface from about 55 degrees north to 55 degrees south. Red-blue 3-D glasses will hang next to the display allowing visitors to view the many features of the surface of Venus compared to that of the Earth's.
Many UMD students are involved in research projects that deal with the understanding of Earth in comparison to its sister planet, Venus. The wall mural will give students a better opportunity to study the surface of Venus up close.
"The Venus mural is not only scientific, but also shows the art of science," says McKnight Presidential Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vicki Hansen, UMD Department of Geological Sciences. Professor Hansen constructed the images using NASA Magellan data, and a computer program designed by former UMD post-doctoral researcher Duncan Young.
"There are geology classes from every level using all three maps," Professor Hansen said. "Other departments are using them as well--which just shows how versatile these maps are as classroom tools. Not only do the floor maps and mural offer excellent opportunities for students to learn more about Earth, they also provide professors with opportunities for research projects. The images allow scientists to view Earth from a different perspective that other universities cannot offer."
"These vibrant images are giving UMD a multitude of new opportunities and even inspiring others to do something similar. I think our floor maps may inspire other universities to do the same, making UMD quite the trendsetter," Hansen said.
Professor Hansen led the effort to create the huge maps at UMD after visiting the Minnesota Science Museum and seeing floor maps in its entry hall. She saw the appeal the maps had to people of all ages and thought they would make a great addition to UMD.
"A university is strengthened by community and public outreach," Professor Hansen said. "I think what is happening here on campus is great. The best part is that people are learning about the Earth. I hope that it makes people more aware of the planet they live on and makes people realize that we are all in this together."
The public is cordially invited to view the three stunning new maps in Heller Hall on the UMD campus. The UMD Geological Sciences Department is happy to lend the 3-D glasses upon visitors' requests.