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HomescienceA new map of the universe that displays the entire extent of...

A new map of the universe that displays the entire extent of the cosmos with extreme precision and overwhelming beauty


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Bryce Maynard (left) and Nikita Shtarkman examine a map of the visible universe. Credit: Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University

The map draws a wide area of ​​the universe, from[{” attribute=””>Milky Way to ‘the edge of what can be seen.’

A new map of the universe displays the span of the entire known cosmos for the first time with pinpoint accuracy and sweeping beauty.

Compiled from data mined over two decades by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the map was created by astronomers from Johns Hopkins University. It allows the public to experience data previously only accessible to scientists.

The interactive map depicts the actual position and real colors of 200,000 galaxies. It is available online, where it can also be downloaded for free.

A new map of the universe displays for the first time the entirety of the known universe with stunning precision and beauty. Credit: Johns Hopkins University

“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 Bryce Maynard, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. 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 people who are not scientists. Our goal here is to show everyone what the universe really looks like.”

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.

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The map 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. Maynard compiled the map with the help of former Johns Hopkins computer science student Nikita Shtarkman.

Map of the visible universe

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. Credit: Johns Hopkins University

The map is more colorful due to the expansion of the universe. Because of this, the further away an object is, the redder it appears. The first flash of radiation was emitted shortly after[{” attribute=””>Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago is revealed at the top of the map.

“In this map, we are just a speck at the very bottom, just one pixel. And when I say we, I mean our galaxy, the Milky Way which has billions of stars and planets,” Ménard says. “We are used to seeing astronomical pictures showing one galaxy here, one galaxy there or perhaps a group of galaxies. But what this map shows is a very, very different scale.”

Ménard hopes people will experience both the map’s undeniable beauty and its awe-inspiring sweep of scale.

“From this speck at the bottom,” he says, “we are able to map out galaxies across the entire universe, and that says something about the power of science.”

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