Using the Menus - Globebrowsing

This section will cover the available functionality when exploring worlds in the Solar System.

  1. Globe Properties
  2. Layers and Their Settings
  3. Layer Ordering and Blending
  4. Lighting Conditions
  5. Atmospheres
  6. Special Layers on Earth
  7. Video

Globe Properties

  • As with any dataset in OpenSpace, globes have their own specific properties under Renderable in the Scene menu.
  • There are many infrequently used settings. The most commonly used ones are:
    • Labels’: Some globes have labels that can be turned on or off. Labels are a special property of a globe and have their own internal properties.
    • Layers’: See the sections about Layers below.
    • Perform Shading’: When enabled, this setting will darken the globe based on the Sun. See Lighting Conditions for more details.
    • Use Accurate Normals’: Used in conjunction with the ‘Perform Shading’ setting, this setting will use the enabled ‘Height Layers’ to further adjust the lighting conditions.
    • Eclipse’: To see an eclipse happen on a globe, you must enable this setting.
    • Eclipse Hard Shadows’: Used with the ‘Eclipse’ setting, this setting will disable the smoothing at the edges of the eclipse sections.
    • Target Level of Detail Scale Factor’: This setting will adjust the level of detail that is loaded for maps in relation to the distance to the camera.
      • Lower values will make the map load faster, and give better performance, at the cost of map resolution.
      • Higher values will take longer to load and negatively impact performance, but will give a more detailed overall image.

Layers and Their Settings

  • Without layers, the globe will be just a gray sphere.
  • The layers of a globe are organized into categories.
    • ColorLayers’ are used to add maps and other visual information to the globe.
    • HeightLayers’ are used to deform the globe, sometimes referred to as a Digital Elevation Model
    • Some globes will have other special groups such as ‘Overlays’ or ‘WaterMasks’ on Earth.
  • The layers of a globe can be turned on or off by using the checkbox next to their name.
    • Enabled layers will be tinted with the highlight color.
  • Adjust the settings of a layer by clicking to open its submenu.
    • For ColorLayers, use the Opacity, Gamma, and Multiplier settings to change the way the layer appears.
    • For HeightLayers, use the Gamma and Multiplier settings to exaggerate the elevation. This can sometimes lead to unexpected rendering issues.
    • For HeightLayers, the Offset can be used to elevate one heightmap relative to another.

Layer Ordering and Blending

  • The order of the layers in the menu represents the order that they are wrapped over the globe, like the layers of an onion.
    • The last layer in the menu list will appear as the outermost layer of the globe.
    • The first layer in the menu would be the innermost layer.
  • If multiple global layers are enabled, only the outermost one will be visible.
    • This becomes important when combining different maps that are multi-color/monochromatic or global/regional.
    • If a layer is monochromatic, its ‘Blend Mode’ can be set to ‘Color’ and its pixels will inherit the color values of the layer underneath it.
  • Regional layers must appear lower in the menu than global layers in order to combine them.

Lighting Conditions

  • By default, globes will have the ‘Perform Shading’ setting enabled, and thus will be lit based on their rotation and position relative to the Sun. To light a different part of the globe, you will need to move time forward or backward. See Using the Menus - Time
  • For times when you don’t want to change the simulation time, you can disable the ‘Perform Shading’ property of the globe.
  • If you want the globe to be brighter even when not shaded, try increasing the ‘Multiplier’ setting of the innermost layer as described above.


  • Venus, Earth, Mars, and Titan have an atmosphere attached to their globe. The atmosphere is a separate item in the scene menu.
  • The atmosphere will affect the lighting conditions on the globe, even if ‘Perform Shading’ is not enabled.
  • To always have the area of the globe you are looking at lit when an atmosphere is enabled, you must enable the ‘Enable Sun on Camera Position’ setting for the globe’s atmosphere along with disabling the ‘Perform Shading’ setting on the globe.
  • The only other common settings to change in an atmosphere would be ‘Enable Hard Shadows for Eclipes’ when you are trying to visualize an eclipse, or ‘Sun Intensity’ if you wish to brighten or dim the overall lighting of a globe.

Special Layers on Earth

  • The default layer on Earth is a special “combo layer” — this means that it is actually two layers that will fade from one to the other based on a specific tile level. The “ESRI VIIRS COMBO” fades between the “VIIRS SNPP (Temporal)” layer and the “ESRI World Imagery Layer.”
  • Earth has special layers in the “Overlay” group that show country features/names, coastlines, and more.
  • Earth has a special NightLayers group since we create light that is visible on the dark side of the planet.
  • The portion of the Earth that would be darkened by the ‘Perform Shading’ section is instead rendered with a different map depicting city lights as visible from space.
  • If you wish to show a fully lit Earth at any simulation time, you must disable any night layers.


Video time Description
0:00 Turn on and off the Perform shading setting.
0:22 Turn on and off Use Accurate Normals setting.
1:39 Turn on Labels on the Moon, which appear as you zoom closer. The Labels size and colors can be adjusted in the submenu.
2:24 Turn on and off ColorLayers and HeightLayers.
3:51 Earth’s default combo layer “ESRI VIIRS COMBO” fades from the “VIIRS SNPP (Temporal)” layer to the “ESRI World Imagery Layer” when closer to the globe. This can be done manually using the opacity setting when both layers are enabled.
4:58 Earth’s temporal layers, such as “VIIRS SNPP (Temporal),” will load as the date is changed.
6:03 Earth’s NightLayers appear on the part of the globe not lit by the Sun.
6:38 Earth has special Overlays that, when enabled add annotations such the outline of countries.
7:30 Adjusting the lighting conditions on Mars.
8:24 Adjust the settings on Mars’ ColorLayers to change the way the layers appear.
9:49 Adjust the blending settings on Mars’ ColorLayers to change how multiple layers appear when enabled.

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