A new map of the universe shows the extent of the entire cosmos with extraordinary accuracy and sweeping beauty

A new map of the universe shows the extent of the entire cosmos with extraordinary accuracy and sweeping beauty

Brice Menard (left) and Nikita Starkman explore the map of the observable universe. Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

The map outlines a wide space 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 shows for the first time the extent of the entire known cosmos with extraordinary precision and sweeping beauty. Credit: Johns Hopkins University

“Growing up, I was very inspired by astronomical pictures, stars, nebulae and galaxies, and now it’s time to create a new type of picture that inspires people,” said map creator Brice Menard, a professor at Johns Hopkins. “Astrophysicists around the world have been analyzing this data for years, leading to thousands of scientific papers and discoveries. But no one took the time to create a map that was beautiful, scientifically accurate, and accessible to non-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 through a telescope based in New Mexico. Night after night over the years, the telescope is aimed at slightly different locations to capture this unusually wide perspective.

The map visualizes part of the universe, or about 200,000 galaxies – each point on the map is a galaxy, and each galaxy contains billions of stars and planets. The Milky Way is just one of those dots, the one at the very bottom of the map. Ménard assembled the map with the help of former Johns Hopkins computer science student Nikita Starkman.

Map of the observable universe

Created by Johns Hopkins University astronomers with data extracted over two decades from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the map allows the public to view data previously only available to scientists. Credit: Johns Hopkins University

The map is even more colorful due to the expansion of the universe. Therefore, the further away an object is, the redder it appears. The first flash of radiation emitted soon 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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