Why We Love It

When a detailed and fascinating dataset is brought to life, the result is uniquely compelling. At first sight, this map simply shows the current location of approximately 1,250 satellites. As you explore the map, its design gives clarity to what seemed like an unorganized pattern. We love that when you click on a satellite you see its path of orbit and 24-hour trajectory shadow.

Why It Works

To plot orbiting satellites and paths on a flat, static map would create quite a mess. A virtual globe allows us to plot satellites along with their height for a realistic impression. We see satellites in a fixed position, color-coded by type. You can zoom and pan, and watch satellites move around the screen as you move the globe. Click a satellite for specific details, list them, and toggle different types on or off.

Important Steps

Source satellite descriptions and ephemeris data from Space-Track.

Use the satellite-js (on GitHub) JavaScript library to convert a satellite's positional data into a geographic location.

Use the ArcGIS API for JavaScript to build the app.



Any objects or phenomena that have some spatial component are ripe for mapping but it’s important to develop a cartographic approach that suits the thing you’re mapping.


The most important processing step: ensure correct horizontal and vertical geometry are calculated based on the satellite TLE Data.


Sourcing and processing the data takes a few hours. The main time was in the construction of the highly customized app using the JavaScript API. It took a couple days to configure it to support a clean, immersive experience.

Best Maps


Often the best maps belie the effort, but it takes a lot of thought and planning to make sure your map appears simple to use and reveals thousands of pieces of information.

Simple Symbology


Simple symbology and strong, highly saturated colors work well for web browsers and the black background evokes the impression of outer space in this map.

Intuitive User Interface


An intuitive user interface of a web map or app creates an experience where users can immediately engage. “Keep it simple” is an age-old maxim that still holds true.

More Information

Map Author

Richie Carmichael

Richie Carmichael

@KiwiRichie | LinkedIn

A 13-year veteran at Esri and the Applications Prototype Lab. Trained as a New Zealand land surveyor. Striving for world peace one map at a time.

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