Instructions to Get the Map: Locate the appropriate topographic map from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) site,

Downloading the topographic map

Go to: Products

Go to Maps: Click on, Topographic Maps

Scroll down: Click on US Topo-  the Current Generation of USGS Topo maps (

Click on Get Maps

Launch Download Maps

In the Map Locator (search) window:

Enter:  Washington D.C.

Find Products


Select: 2016  USGS US Topo 7.5 – minute map for WASHINGTON WEST, DC-MD-VA

Click on “Download” (map will open when downloading is complete. Download may take a few minutes. Do not pay for maps)

Save your map as a PDF file!!

Open the pdf file to display your map.

To zoom in and out on the PDF map press and hold the Ctrl key and then the + and – buttons map and move around with the hand tool.

Also zooming in and out using the + and – buttons plus the Ctrl key on the map itself gives very high resolution.

It is also okay to use the control key and mouse scroll button to zoom in and out while maintaining high resolution. Find the U.S. Naval Observatory Location:

Navigate using the + and – buttons on the PDF map and the hand tool. Zooming in using the + and – buttons on the map itself gives very high resolution. This map covers parts of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Put a Dot on the Observatory and Label “Observatory”

Zoom in on the area that includes the observatory so that the vertical dimension on your map is about one to two kilometers. Each square on the map is one square kilometer. Using the annotation feature on the map, mark where the observatory is with a dot. Make sure your dot is a contrasting color so that a viewer can see it.

Again using the map’s annotation features, create a text box next to the dot that says “U.S. Observatory.” Use an appropriate size font and color. Prepare a Word Document with the Following:

Take a screenshot of your map showing the U.S. Naval Observatory. The shot should include a vertical distance of one to two kilometers.

Using Google Earth
Go to Google Earth and take a screenshot of the same area as covered by the
screenshot of your topographic map. Put this on your Word document.
*go to
*Click “Launch”
*search “Washington DC Naval Observatory”
*Alt + print screen key to take a screenshot
*Paste in a document and save.
(Hint: take a little larger screenshot than your topographic map. Then resize and crop in Word to make it the same area as your topographic map screenshot.

Compare and contrast the view and information available from the two maps/images, and answer the following questions in complete detail.

1. Describe the topography near the observatory.  Make sure your description has enough information to make it interesting.

2. What is the elevation of the U.S. Naval Observatory?

3. What does it mean when the contour lines are close together? What does it mean when the lines are far apart?

4. What is the lowest land elevation on the map? Why is that an easy question?

5. Using the map, what is the distance in kilometers (to the nearest tenth of a kilometer) between the Smithsonian Institute and the Library of Congress?

(Hint: Use the scale at the bottom of the map. Use a ruler gently against the monitor. You cannot zoom in and out once you measure.)

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