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- [map projections] A planar projection, tangent to the earth at one point, projected from the center of the globe. All great circles appear as straight lines on this projection, so that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The gnomonic projection is useful in navigation. The gnomonic projection was used by Thales of Miletus, an ancient Greek astronomer and philosopher, to chart the heavens. It is possibly the oldest map projection.