I don't want to create the universe, just recreate it.
May 8, 2011 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for usable 3d meshes of Earth, Moon and Mars I know the data is out there for free, but the data I've found is ridiculous (4 terabyte high resolution files), hard to use (5 degree slices that would need to be assembled), in formats that only planetary geologists can use, or simply stuck in the labyrinth of poorly maintained and documented government web sites where I can't find it.

It doesn't need to be super high resolution, (buildings no, mountains yes) and I don't need matching image maps, but I do need elevation data. Any common 3d format is acceptable.

If worse comes to worst I can live with a grayscale elevation image that I can use as a displacement map, though I'd rather not for a number of reasons.

Any help or pointers are appreciated.
posted by Ookseer to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're looking for a Digital Elevation Model. There are various sources for the Earth; the SRTM is probably the easiest to work with and is freely available.
posted by Nelson at 1:21 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

have a look at the google maps elevation api which you can use to generate an arbitrary resolution mesh, subject to the daily usage limits. i think.
posted by paradroid at 1:22 PM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the links so far.

SRTM doesn't cover the entire surface of Earth, everything above 60 degrees is missing. It also appears to all be tiled and very difficult to get into 3d editing software.

Google elevation API only spits out JSON or XML data and would require a fair amount of scripting to not only make the requests but to then turn the requests into usable 3d data.
posted by Ookseer at 2:10 PM on May 8, 2011

It also appears to all be tiled and very difficult to get into 3d editing software.

You aren't going to find a 3d model of the globe that isn't cut up in some creative fashion. You might find SAGA handy - it's free, reasonably user-friendly and can probably perform whatever transformation you need.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:36 PM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: I don't need meter resolution, 100km resolution would be fine, as long as elevation data is there for each point. Since I've seen all of these heavenly bodies mapped and modeled and flown through and visualized and featured in special effects I had hoped it would be a reasonable request to get them in a non-scientific format, all in one file. They obviously exist somewhere.
posted by Ookseer at 3:13 PM on May 8, 2011

Are there models on the SketchUp warehouse that will work for you? A quick search turns up lots of models for the earth, moon, and mars, but I can't tell which, if any, have 3d features.
posted by Nelson at 4:11 PM on May 8, 2011

If you want big swooping zooms, you may want a convincing fake, rather than actual geographical data. The Earth is 12742 km in diameter, while its highest mountains are less than 9 km. If you had a globe one meter wide, mountains would be less than a millimeter tall. Or to put it another way, if you have a picture of the Earth 1000 pixels wide, the highest mountains aren't even a full pixel away from a perfect circle.
posted by zompist at 5:07 PM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: It's pretty trivial to expand the depth features of a model once I got it, and I was planning to do that. However I have to get the depth features in the first place.

Since apparently the data doesn't exist I've managed to dig up some grayscale depth maps that I can wrangle into the format that I want. For future reference:

- Earth
- Moon
- Mars
posted by Ookseer at 6:30 PM on May 9, 2011

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