A new map of the universe displays for the first time the entirety of the known universe with stunning precision and beauty.
Created by astronomers at Johns Hopkins University using data mined over two decades by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the map allows the public to experience data previously only available to scientists.
The interactive map, which depicts the actual location and true colors of 200,000 galaxies, is available online, where it can also be downloaded for free.
“I’ve been very inspired by images of astronomy, stars, nebulae and galaxies, and now it’s time to create a new type of image to inspire people,” says map designer Brice Ménard, Professor at Johns Hopkins.
“Astrophysicists around the world have been analyzing this data for years, resulting in thousands of scientific papers and discoveries. But no one has taken the time to create a map that is beautiful, scientifically accurate, and accessible to non-scientists. Our goal here is to show everyone what it looks like. The universe really.”
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey is a pioneering effort to capture the night sky with a telescope based in New Mexico. Night after night for years, the telescope has aimed at slightly different locations to capture this extraordinarily wide perspective.
The map, compiled by Maynard with the help of Nikita Shtarkman, a former computer science student at Johns Hopkins University, depicts a slice of the universe, or about 200,000 galaxies — every point on the map is a galaxy and each galaxy contains billions of stars and planets. The Milky Way is simply one of these points, the one at the bottom of the map.
The expansion of the universe is making this map even more colorful. The farther away the object is, the redder it appears. The top of the map reveals the first flash of radiation that was emitted shortly after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago.
“In this map, we’re just a speck at the bottom, just one pixel. And when I say, I mean our galaxy, the Milky Way that contains billions of stars and planets,” says Maynard. “We’re used to seeing astrophotos that show one galaxy here or one galaxy there or maybe a group of galaxies. But what this map shows is on a very different scale.”
Maynard hopes people will experience the map’s undeniable beauty and incredible scale.
“From this bottom spot,” he says, “we’re able to map galaxies across the entire universe, and that says something about the power of science.”
Provided by Johns Hopkins University
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