Scientists have released the largest ever 3D map of the Universe, encompassing massive galaxies and distant black holes, based on Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III). The new map pinpoints the locations and distances of over a million galaxies. It covers a total volume equivalent to that of a cube four billion light-years on one side.
The group uses a massive wide-angle optical telescope at New Mexico’s Apache Point Observatory to record the cosmos bit by bit. The telescope’s findings are then used to piece together an unprecedented look at our universe. The animation in the YouTube video embedded above includes more than 400,000 galaxies.
And each galaxy, remember, is hundreds of thousands of light years side-to-side.
So sit back, press play and enjoy the show.
With such a map, scientists can retrace the history of the universe over the last six billion years. With that history, they can get better estimates for how much of the universe is made up of “dark matter” – matter that we cannot directly see because it does not emit or absorb light – and “dark energy”, the even more mysterious force that drives the accelerating expansion of the universe.
“Dark matter and dark energy are two of the greatest mysteries of our time,” said David Schlegel of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the principal investigator of BOSS. “We hope that our new map of the universe can help someone solve the mystery.”
The group’s findings can be explored in depth at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III website.