Flat-Earthers often point out to a ‘map’ that they think represents ‘the real Earth’. At a glance, it looks identical to the azimuthal equidistant map centered on the north pole. But both maps are in fact fundamentally different. The polar azimuthal equidistant map is not the so-called flat-Earth map.
An azimuthal equidistant map centered on the north pole is used for various purposes. It is used by the United Nations, USGS, or US military. Because it looks identical to what they call the ‘flat-Earth map’, flat-Earthers often think that the usage of the map indicates suspicious intentions. They think it as a ‘recognition’ from various International bodies that the Earth is flat.
But no, the polar azimuthal equidistant map is not the flat-Earth map. At a glance, it looks identical, but they are fundamentally very different.
Like every other map, the azimuthal equidistant map is simply a projection of the real figure of the Earth. It has distortions. The shortest route between two points in the map is not always represented by a straight line. The shortest route is determined by calculating the great-circle distance on the spherical figure of the Earth.
On the other hand, what they claim as the ‘flat-Earth map’ does not have distortions. They regard the map as a scaled-down representation of the real Earth, not a projection of it. They claim the map does not have distortions and the shortest route between two points is always represented by a straight line. In reality, the ‘flat-Earth map’ does not agree with real-world observations and does not represent the actual figure of the Earth.
The usage of an azimuthal equidistant map is normal. It is not something that can be considered ‘suspicious’, just like the usage of every other map types. This map is used because of its suitability for the task at hand, not because the Earth is flat.
- Azimuthal equidistant projection – Wikipedia