A new map of the universe displays the extent of the entire cosmos with pinpoint accuracy and stunning beauty

Brice Ménard (left) and Nikita Shtarkman examine the map of the observable universe. Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

The map depicts a vast expanse 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 extent of the entire known cosmos with pinpoint accuracy and stunning beauty. Credit: Johns Hopkins University

“Growing up, I was very inspired by astronomy images, 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, leading to 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 the universe is really 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 for years, the telescope aimed at slightly different locations to capture this unusually wide perspective.

The map visualizes a slice of the universe, approximately 200,000 galaxies – each dot on the map is a galaxy, and each galaxy contains billions of stars and planets. The Milky Way is just one of those points, the one at the very bottom of the map. Ménard assembled the board with the help of former Johns Hopkins computer science student Nikita Shtarkman.

Map of the observable universe

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

The map is even more colorful due to the expansion of the universe. For this reason, the further away an object is, the redder it appears. The first flash of radiation emitted shortly after the[{” 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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