In the Big Bang Theory, there's a map on Sheldon & Leonard's refrigerator throughout the entire show It has false-color shadings of various kinds, with prominent craters, and so is presumably of some non-terrestrial body, perhaps Mars, the moon, or an asteroid. Can anyone identify it?

Screenshot of the map

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    $\begingroup$ It is a topographic (rainbow colorscale) digital terrain model of some body. I'm 90% sure it's Mercury and not the moon. However, I've never really tried hard to figure out where it is. I think it's Mercury because of the piecemeal nature of the data: On the Moon, we have very good topography with no gaps, but on Mercury the topography made from stereogrammetry from framing camera images, and there were plenty of gaps in the data when I think that image first appeared on their refrigerator. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmmm... that said, I could be wrong. I searched and could not find it: messenger.quickmap.io/… $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ And, I also can't find it on the map of the Moon, so now I'm confused. It's not Venus, it's not Mars. We don't have topography that good that looks like that for the Galilean satellites, and I'm pretty sure the Saturnian are much more heavily cratered and don't have large craters with almost nothing emplaced on them. I know it's not Pluto/Charon, I helped make those maps. Vesta does not have any craters like that, so I suppose Ceres is a possibility. It's also possible I simply missed it on Mercury. There're named craters on the map (white horizontal rectangles, but much too low-res to read. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ Was the map still there after Sheldon moved out? Perhaps it would be better to describe the refrigerator as the one in apartment 4A, although “Sheldon & Leonard” in the title certainly gets the attention of fans! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ @StuartRobbins you were so close! $\endgroup$
    – Mike G
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


It's the Beethoven basin region on Mercury. The MESSENGER image gallery says:

A digital terrain model (DTM) derived from Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) stereo images. The lateral spacing is 330 m and the map is in stereographic (conformal) projection. The image is taken from abstract number 1913 submitted to the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, by Frank Preusker and colleagues.

Beethoven basin on Mercury
NASA / JHU APL / Carnegie Institution of Washington

A collage of MESSENGER photos from 2011 debuted on the Apt. 4A freezer door around the same time. A statement released 2012-04-05 quotes PI Sean Solomon:

The MESSENGER team is thrilled by the decision of the producers and writers of 'The Big Bang Theory' to weave some of the spacecraft's latest images of Mercury into this week's episode... We look forward to seeing how the images figure in the story line and camera shots, and we hope that interest in the MESSENGER mission is broadened by this exposure on one of the most popular series now on television.

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    $\begingroup$ I've never seen the show - any idea if that image related to the characters in any way other than just being a map of a region of mercury/a "nerdy" thing to have? $\endgroup$
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Mar 13, 2021 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ Wow. How did you figure that out Mike? Oh, and I call Lizard. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket I cropped and transformed the image in question; search by image found this blog post. $\endgroup$
    – Mike G
    Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ @BruceWayne Really just a nerd thing. Leonard and Sheldon are both physicists, but neither of them specializes in astronomy or astrophysics. The space nerd (Howard) lives elsewhere. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 11:50

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