NASA

About Hill Top Views

Hill Top Views is a 3D map of the world, including labelled models of thousands of hills and mountains. Landscape models can be exported as SVG graphics for use in artwork, or as STL files which can be imported into 3D rendering or 3D printing software.

The maps are intended to represent natural landscapes in 3D, and do not include buildings, bridges, and other man-made structures. However, they do include some larger roads, rivers, railways and regional boundaries, whose outlines are taken from Open Street Map.

Data sources

The maps are based on topographic data collected from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) in 2000, which covers all latitudes between 60°S and 60°N to a resolution of around 90 metres. This is combined with data from Open Street Map, which is used to identify lakes, coastlines, rivers, roads, train lines, and regional boundaries.

The names and positions of mountains are taken from various catalogues. In Britain and Ireland, much of the data was taken from the Database of British and Irish Hills. The positions of mountains elsewhere in the world were taken from Open Street Map.

Terrain colors and controls

The maps are colored according to terrain elevation, with low-lying terrain colored green, and higher terrain colored grey or white.

The color scale can be adjusted to give maximum contrast to peaks and valleys at particular altitudes. This is done by adjusting the elevation sliders on the right-hand side of many of the maps.

All of the 3D landscape models include a calculation of how sunlight will illuminate the terrain at different times of day. You can use the "Time of Day" slider to move the Sun from east to west. Some of the most spectacular views are to be had around dawn and dusk, when the Sun is low in the sky and casts long shadows.

The fog control lets you vary how far into the distance you can see. Some of the views on this site are quite optimistic about how far into the distance you are likely to be able to see, and applying fog may be helpful if you're trying to line up a diagram with a real photo.

Dominic Ford

Dominic Ford

I work on the Exoplanet Analysis System for the European Space Agency's forthcoming PLATO mission, which is scheduled for launch in 2026. I am based at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, UK, where I work with Nicholas Walton.

From 2017 until 2019, I worked at Lund Observatory, Sweden, leading the development of the 4MOST consortium's data analysis pipeline for spectroscopic surveys of the Milky Way. In particular, I studied the strengths and limitations of machine-learning techniques for analysing astronomical spectra, since such methods may be the only feasible way to process the tens of thousands of spectra that 4MOST will observe every night.

Projects I work on in my spare time
  • In-The-Sky.org – a guide to what's visible in the night sky, which automatically tailors information to wherever you happen to live on Earth.
  • ScienceDemos.org.uk – a collection of fun interactive online science demos.
  • HillTopViews.org.uk – a three-dimensional terrain map of the world, based on altitude data collected by NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) in 2000, combined with additional open-source data from Open Street Map.
  • Dominic's photos – When I'm not doing other things, I dabble in amateur photography, and you can find some of my photos here.
Experimental projects
  • An astrophoto archive – A highly experimental tool for publishing galleries of astrophotos online, searchable by object name or celestial coordinates.
  • Pi Gazing – a fun project to set up a network of motion-sensitive security cameras which triangulate the three-dimensional trajectories of shooting stars, satellites and aircraft. We use Raspberry Pis to do the real-time image analysis, running astrometry.net to precisely determine the direction each camera was pointing, and a GPS receiver to determine their positions. This project ran from 2014–2016 in collaboration with Cambridge Science Centre under its former name of MeteorPi. I doing some work in my spare time to try to restart. The code needs a lot of cleaning up, but is all available on GitHub.
Old projects
  • The Observer's Guide to Planetary Motion – My book, which describes much of the science behind how In-The-Sky.org does its calculations.
  • Pyxplot – A graphing and vector graphics package which I wrote in 2008–2012.
  • GrepNova – an automated image-comparison tool for amateur astronomers who hunt for supernova. This tool was used by Tom Boles, who currently holds the world record for the largest number of supernovae discovered by any single individual.
  • Naked Astronomy – Between 2012 and 2014 I worked for the Naked Scientists in Cambridge, where I produced the monthly STFC-funded podcast Naked Astronomy. I also spent one day a week in the newsroom of BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, acting as a science advisor.
  • Square Kilometre Array – Between 2007 and 2012, I worked at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, investigating the feasibility of using Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to build a correlator for the SKA.
  • PhD Thesis – I was awarded my PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2008, where my supervisor was Prof Paul Alexander. I built a model of the infrared spectra of dusty star-forming galaxies, which were being observed in large numbers at that time by Spitzer.
Ancient projects

In the 1990s I was the kind of geeky teenager who sat in my bedroom writing computer games for my Acorn Electron. I even got a couple of them published. Though the reviewers spotted, quite correctly, that I wasn't very good at making up story lines.

  • Shipwrecked – Published here and reviewed in detail here. In the unlikely event you want to try and complete it, you may find this solution useful. It even got ported to the Commodore 64!
  • Jupiter III – The sequel to Shipwrecked, published here and reviewed in detail here. This was my first attempt at high-speed scrolling graphics. In the unlikely event you want to try and complete it, you may find this solution useful.

All of the information and diagrams on this website are released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. . You are free to reproduce them for any purpose, but must credit Hill Top Views.

All of the information presented on this website is derived from public domain sources. The NASA SRTM dataset is publicly available under a US Government License. The Database of British and Irish Hills is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Contact details

You can email me at root@127.0.0.1.