Where the world comes to study the Bible

NET Bible Maps

About the NET Bible Maps

See the samples below. This is the first time that data recorded by a satellite has been used in a Bible to illustrate the Holy Land. When you compare these images to other satellite imagery or photographs, you will immediately notice their unique resolution and quality. This gives you, the reader, a great deal of information--relative altitude, topography, vegetation, available mountain passes, travel routes, etc.--and this information is often vital to understanding the Bible. As we searched for maps to include in the NET BIBLE, we found that the high quality map lithographs included in 16th century Bibles had not been surpassed by the maps in contemporary study Bibles. Now they have. The images provided with the NET BIBLE are far better than any maps that have ever been included in any Bible.

What you see is essentially a photograph in the sense that all of the colors shown derive from a single satellite photograph, but it is so vastly improved that we feel we owe you an explanation. The process to create these images was quite complex. Every image began as a photograph taken by a U.S. LandSat 5 satellite on a cold, crystal clear morning in January. Every color is thus true and contextual, not a mixture of images from different days. It was a rare and specifically chosen day because there were virtually no clouds anywhere in the entire region. Because LandSat images are taken from directly above, contain no altitude data, and have only a 30 meter resolution--far worse than the result you see here--more needed to be done to make the images better. A resolution of 30 meters means is that a building which is 30 by 30 meters would appear as one single dot on the image, so objects smaller than this size would not be visible at this resolution.

To improve the images, data from a French SPOT satellite was integrated in order to increase the resolution to 10 meters, so that smaller features of the landscape could be seen. This was complicated because the SPOT satellite data is black and white, but has 10 meter resolution. Thus there are 9 pixels of data (9 dots) in the SPOT data for every single colored dot in the LandSat data. Since these two satellites took their pictures from different altitudes and different locations in the sky, combining the two images required continuous compensation for differences in altitude, focal length, and image skew-because these two images sources were never intended to be combined into a single image. Therefore it was required that the combined images be precisely aligned, that the edges of every mountain and valley be identical and not blurred, resulting in an extensive investment of money, love, time, and technology. Along the way, two photographic exposure settings were required so that the desert south was not overexposed and the vegetation of the north was not underexposed. So the base image had to be an integration of two exposure settings shot at the same time by the same satellite in order to achieve the photographic exposure perfection you see. Once the SPOT and LandSat photographs were integrated, the image was still a topographically boring look from above with no altitude data.

The next step was to "drape" these two-dimensional images over a 3-D relief model of the terrain which added topographical data. This required relatively complex math and a significant amount of computer time. On some maps, this kind of data is shown as contour lines overlaid onto the images and labeled with altitude numbers for each contour line. Using this approach, locations where the contour lines are very close represent steep slopes. This method is fine for hiking maps, but obscures a photographic image and certainly detracts from the beauty of high resolution color satellite images like these.

The final step, therefore, was to develop software which would remove the need for contour lines by rendering the entire image as if it had not been taken from directly above in space, but as if the observer was viewing the scene from a commercial airliner. In this manner, altitude information would appear photographically as height in a natural way rather than as numbers on a vertical view from above. One draw back of this oblique scene projection is that the opposite sides of large mountains and valleys are obscured. For this reason, there are two views presented for each scene to allow you to "see behind" each of the mountains-one looking from the southwest and another from the northeast. In this manner, none of the original data is lost in these photographs. You can see both sides of each mountain from 180 degree opposing photographs of each region. In addition, the natural distortion that occurs when projecting an oblique image is also accounted for by looking at the same region from two different perspectives.

Why these particular viewing perspectives (northeast and southwest)? Since the computer could have projected each image from any angle, these photographs could have been rendered as if shot looking in any compass direction--looking north or east for example. But these particular perspectives have been chosen for a specific reason. Depth perception and contour imaging clues interpreted in the brain are hinted at by shadows in photographs. Although the original photographs were taken from above, the sun was not high overhead at the same time, so the shadows included in the original satellite photos dictate the optimum viewing angle of the scenes. Since the original photographs were taken early on a winter morning, the sun was low on the southeast horizon, casting long shadows to the northwest from the southeast. The eye understands an image best when viewed perpendicular to the direction of any shadows. Therefore, in order to produce the most illuminating three dimensional image, the observer must look at right angles to these shadows. These circumstances dictate that the best viewing perspectives for the reader will be looking northeast and southwest.

These images took more time and technology than have ever been used before in the creation of images for biblical studies. They are the result of over thirty years of diligent effort by Röhr Productions Ltd. whose goal is to create unsurpassed images of the Holy Land, images which enable the reader to better understand the land of the Bible--and provide teachers a far better than normal reference for guiding students through biblical narratives in their proper geographical context. Although we have modified these maps to suit the smaller format of the NET BIBLE, they are all derived from the Holy Land Satellite Atlas: Volumes 1 and 2 (and the related 3-D Animation CD of the Holy Land), published by Röhr Productions Ltd. We are grateful for permission to use them in the NET BIBLE. The effort that went into the procurement and production of these images deserves your support. We encourage you to obtain Röhr's family of imagery reference materials in order to support both your studies and Röhr's ongoing efforts. (info@rohrproductions.com)


Maps © Copyright Biblical Studies Press. All Rights Reserved.

Index to Maps

Related Topics: NET Bible