[coordinate systems] A method by which the curved surface of the earth is portrayed on a flat surface. This generally requires a systematic mathematical transformation of the earth’s graticule of lines of longitude and latitude onto a plane. Some projections can be visualized as a transparent globe with a light bulb at its center (though not all projections emanate from the globe’s center) casting lines of latitude and longitude onto a sheet of paper. Generally, the paper is either flat and placed tangent to the globe (a planar or azimuthal projection) or formed into a cone or cylinder and placed over the globe (cylindrical and conical projections). Every map projection distorts distance, area, shape, direction, or some combination thereof.

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