A Visual Guide to the Women Venus's Geography Is Named For

Tabletop Whale
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When space tourism is in full swing, you’ll need to know how to get around foreign planets. One designer is already making maps to guide us.

Scientist and information designer Eleanor Lutz, a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Washington’s biology program, has previously mapped Mars, turned viruses into trading cards, and made an animated guide to North American butterflies. Her latest infographic is a map of Venus, but it includes more than just a guide to the second planet’s topography. Almost all the features on Venus are named after women, mythological and real, and Lutz’s map explains where these perhaps unfamiliar names come from.

Venus may have had oceans in its distant past, but if they did exist, they have long since evaporated, leaving a boiling hot world with a crushing carbon dioxide atmosphere. That leaves a lot of topography to cover—chasms, craters, mountains, plains, valleys, and more. According to the conventions adopted by the International Astronomical Union, these features are named after specific groups of women, largely mythological. (You’ll notice that a few features are named for men; these were named before the women-only convention was established.)

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Chasms, for instance, are named after moon and hunt goddesses, while high plains are named for various goddesses of prosperity. Only a few features are named for real women—large craters are named after famous women like Beatrix Potter or the Chinese physician Shih Mai-Yu, while small craters have generic female names like Roxanna, Lillian, and Miriam. The public got to suggest some of these names back in 1991, the year after the Magellan spacecraft arrived at the planet, and the monikers were subsequently approved by the International Astronomical Union.

Lutz has color- and symbol-coded the guide to the names of the planet’s features: red is for small craters named with common names; a circle with a cross in it marks steep slopes named after goddesses of the hearth and home; and yellow is for craters named for famous women. Each feature on the map is marked by its name and who that person was or what mythology they come from. Carmenta Farra, a pancake-like feature on the planet, is named for the Roman goddess of springs. The oval topographical feature Xquiq Corona is named after a Mayan fertility goddess. Toci Tholus is a ridge honoring an Aztec earthquake goddess.

The map is incredibly intricate, so you need to really zoom in to explore it. You can buy a poster (or a phone case, or a pillow, or a tote bag) of the design on Redbubble to really pore over it. Posters start at $13.