• globe
    He's got the whole world in his hands.

    Photograph by Mark Thiessen

    Hot Potato
    Martin Behaims 1492 globe is called the Erdapfel, which means Earth apple. It is so valuable, authorities in Germany keep it at a secret location to prevent damage and theft.

    Erdapfel is now a German word for potato. At the time Behaim made his globe, potatoes were unknown in Europe. (Potatoes are native to North and South America, which hadnt been discovered by Europeans yet.)

    A globe is a three-dimensional scale model of the Earth or other round body. Because it is spherical, or ball-shaped, it can represent surface features, directions, and distances more accurately than a flat map. On the other hand, a globe may be less practical for travelers, since globes are much bulkier than flat maps and often carry less detailed information.

    The oldest known globe was made more than 2,100 years ago by Crates of Mallus, a Greek philosopher and geographer who lived in what is today Turkey. The oldest globe that survives to this day was made by the German geographer Martin Behaim in 1492—just before Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World. This globe is more accurate than Crates', but still leaves out North America, South America, Australia, and Antarctica.

    The Earth is not the only planet that has been mapped onto a globe. In the past few decades, spacecraft have made detailed maps of the surfaces of other planets and moons. Globes for some of them, such as the planet Mars and our own Moon, are available for purchase.

    Even the night sky around the Earth, known as the celestial sphere, has been mapped onto a globe. Celestial globes represent stars and planets visible above certain parts of the Earth. Many constellations, such as the Big Dipper, are outlined into familiar shapes on celestial globes. Looking for patterns on celestial globes makes finding individual stars easier to spot.

    Like most early terrestrial globes, most early celestial globes were made of metal. Metal globes are usually cast in two halves, or hemispheres. These halves are then welded together with hot metal, creating a seam, or raised line, in the middle of the sphere. It is nearly impossible to create seamless globes—globes that are made of a single piece of metal. Nevertheless, astronomers and metalsmiths in what is today India and Pakistan created such celestial globes in the 1500s.

    An ancient type of globe is the armillary sphere. An armillary sphere has a mini-globe of Earth surrounded by rings representing movement of visible stars and planets. The rings are adjustable, so they reflect the stars and planets visible at different times of the year in different places on the globe. Before the invention of the telescope, armillary spheres were the most important tools astronomers had. In fact, celestial globes and armillary spheres have likely been used at least as long as terrestrial globes, if not longer.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    adjustable Adjective

    able to change according to different situations.

    armillary sphere Noun

    ancient tool, made of interlocking rings surrounding a globe, to determine the position of stars and planets in the visible sky.

    astronomer Noun

    person who studies space and the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere.

    Big Dipper Noun

    constellation of seven stars resembling a ladle, prominent in the Northern Hemisphere.

    cast Noun

    impression formed when a liquid substance is poured into a form or mold, and then hardens into that shape.

    celestial globe Noun

    spherical model of the stars and planets visible in the night sky around the Earth.

    celestial sphere Noun

    imaginary sphere with Earth as its center, including all the stars and planets visible in the night sky.

    Christopher Columbus Noun

    (1446-1506) Italian navigator.

    constellation Noun

    group of stars that form a recognizable shape.

    Crates of Mallus Noun

    (?-145 BCE) Greek philosopher.

    decade Noun

    10 years.

    Earth Noun

    our planet, the third from the Sun. The Earth is the only place in the known universe that supports life.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Earth
    erdapfel Noun

    German world for potato.

    Erdapfel Noun

    oldest globe in the world, made in 1492 by Martin Behaim.

    geographer Noun

    person who studies places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    globe Noun

    scale model of the Earth, or sometimes used to mean the Earth itself.

    Encyclopedic Entry: globe
    hemisphere Noun

    half of a sphere, or ball-shaped object.

    Encyclopedic Entry: hemisphere
    Mars Noun

    fourth planet from the sun, between Earth and Jupiter.

    Martin Behaim Noun

    (1459-1507) German geographer.

    metal Noun

    category of elements that are usually solid and shiny at room temperature.

    metalsmith Noun

    person who makes tools or sculpture from metal.

    New World Noun

    the Western Hemisphere, made up of the Americas and their islands.

    philosopher Noun

    person who studies knowledge and the way people use it.

    practical Adjective

    useful or easy to use.

    seam Noun

    line formed by two pieces of joined material.

    spacecraft Noun

    vehicle designed for travel outside Earth's atmosphere.

    sphere Noun

    round object.

    spherical Adjective

    rounded and three-dimensional.

    telescope Noun

    scientific instrument that uses mirrors to view distant objects.

    terrestrial globe Noun

    spherical model of the Earth.

    three-dimensional Adjective

    having the appearance of width, height, and depth.

    undisclosed Adjective

    secret or unrevealed.

    weld Verb

    to join two or more pieces of metal by applying heat to melt the parts of metal to be joined.

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