A map projection is any method of representing the surface of a sphere or other three-dimensional body on a plane. Map projections are necessary for creating maps. All map projections distort the surface in some fashion...
displays all great circle
A great circle, also known as a Riemannian circle, of a sphere is the intersection of the sphere and a plane which passes through the center point of the sphere, as opposed to a general circle of a sphere where the plane is not required to pass through the center...
s as straight lines. Thus the shortest route between two locations in reality corresponds to that on the map
A map is a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes....
. This is achieved by projecting, with respect to the center of the Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...
(hence perpendicular to the surface), the Earth's surface onto a tangent
In geometry, the tangent line to a plane curve at a given point is the straight line that "just touches" the curve at that point. More precisely, a straight line is said to be a tangent of a curve at a point on the curve if the line passes through the point on the curve and has slope where f...
plane. The least distortion occurs at the tangent point. Less than half of the sphere
A sphere is a perfectly round geometrical object in three-dimensional space, such as the shape of a round ball. Like a circle in two dimensions, a perfect sphere is completely symmetrical around its center, with all points on the surface lying the same distance r from the center point...
can be projected onto a finite map.