If you are fond of spending minutes scrolling about on Google Maps and looking at unknown places with compelling names and interesting topographies, you might be in for a great discovery. A new interactive map could now help you scroll across the universe and make extraterrestrial findings of your own. The feat has been achieved by John Hopkins University astronomers using more than 20 years of data mining by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
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The interactive map, available online with free access, displays the length and breadth of the entire known universe with striking accuracy and could point you to 200,000 galaxies. The map’s creator, Brice Ménard, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, told Phys.org that the data used to create the map have helped scientists produce “thousands of scientific papers and discoveries.” Still, it crossed no one’s mind to present the data in a form that could help the general public view the beauty of the universe.
“Our goal here is to show everybody what the universe really looks like,” Ménard said. In effect, the map works with a part of the universe having about 200,000 galaxies, and each represents a galaxy with billions of stars and planets. The further a galaxy is from the point of focus, which is us, or our Milky Way to be exact, the redder it appears on the map, while the farthest colorful object on the map depicts the first flash right after the Big Bang.
Creating the map is a significant step towards consolidating data that has remained with us for several decades and making it accessible to the public. It also helps viewers gauge the sheer scale and enormity of the universe and how tiny our existence is in the grand scheme of things. But more than anything, the map could become a source of stirring up the curiosity of countless viewers in diverse ways and urge them to begin their very own journey of scientific discovery and exploration of the universe.
With this novel approach to using available data about the universe, scientists have opened the doors for further studies, probes, and queries into the universe’s existence. “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 said. “From this speck at the bottom,” he added, “we are able to map out galaxies across the entire universe, and that says something about the power of science.”
He is absolutely true. And this power of science is exactly what we hope inspires the next generation of space explorers. Bon voyage!