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To build a planet

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I ran into similar problems as described in To build a spaceship when thinking about maps of foreign landscapes, but even worse.

Let's first take a look at the map presented in JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Both Ered Luin and Hithaeglir could have been pushed up by two colliding plates. What strikes is that they're parallel. Ered Nimrais is another plate ("Gondor Plate") pushing from South.

But Mordor...Mordor is surrounded by Ered Lithu and Ephel Duath, by West, North and South. I find it difficult to imagine processes which would shape a nearly perfect rectangular "fence" around some region.
It is also notable that there is no volcano save for Orodruin on the whole map; and Orodruin seems to be caused by a hotspot rather than subduction or rifting.

So that was my first issue: to create a somewhat plausible landscape which would be shaped by geological processes. Extra bonuses go for things like reflecting that there might be a desert in the shadow of a mountain range (such as east of the Andes) or whether and where would be fjords - not on Shaterach III, which never saw an Ice Age. Also, Shaterach III is considerably younger than Sol III (evolution had less setbacks there).

Next issue was: projection. Planets are balls, but usually, you don't draw on balls. This is quite a task for cartographers to bring the ball to a square, flat map you can handle, with a wide range of projections to choose from. They will result in distortions, which is why Antarctica is mostly shown as a white band of land on the bottom of mercatoid maps. This is difficult enough, but when imagining a fictonal mercator map, you'd have to imagine the distortions as well. Which is a feat I deemed to be impossible.

Having realized that, I researched projections and found Dymaxion, which sounds interesting if designing planet maps. I'd even go further: build a geodesic sphere out of millions of triangles, which would serve as "pixels" for the planet. I imagine a program which would have said sphere to which you then could zoom in to shape the land. Well, have fun, needless to say that I gave up on planets too.


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