Way beyond Mars: Scientists release biggest 3-D map of the sky

Posted Aug. 10, 2012, at 9:07 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — Talk about a giant data set: Scientists at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) have released the biggest three-dimensional map of the universe ever created.

Using data collected by a 2.5-meter wide-angle optical telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, scientists were able to pinpoint the locations and distances of 1.35 million galaxies.

“We want to map the largest volume of the universe yet, and to use that map to understand how the expansion of the universe is accelerating,” said Daniel Eisenstein, director of SDSS-III, in a statement.

Unfortunately, you can’t go to the SDSS-III’s website and see a Google Street View-type map of the universe. The information isn’t presented that way — at least not yet.

But Miguel A. Aragon-Calvo, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University, said he’s working on it. After a previous release of data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Aragon-Calvo created a short film that lets viewers fly through a mostly accurate 3D model of the universe. While the 400,000 galaxies you virtually swoop past in the film are in the right spots based on the data available at the time, Aragon-Calvo had to magnify the galaxies so that you can actually see them.

Aragon-Calvo said that there may be a Google Street Map-type version of the new data released in the next few months. In the meantime, armchair astronomers might check out Microsoft Research’s World Wide Telescope, which is awesome!

©2012 Los Angeles Times

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