Just a quick picture…

Ever wonder what it would look like if you took about 100,000 nearby large (i.e., Milky Way sized and larger) galaxies, reduced each one to a point, and mapped them? Well, at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, they did this, from the point of view of where we are in the Universe. We are the Milky Way, the one dot dead center in this image. Take a look, and click to enlarge:

Does it make you feel insignificant? Or does it make you feel like you’re a part of something wondrous? Or both? However it makes you feel, I hope you enjoy looking at it!


  1. #1 dan
    August 27, 2009

    amazing image! I feel so small…

  2. #2 Shaun
    August 27, 2009

    This might be a dumb question but why is there all that black space across the middle of that picture.

  3. #3 Andrew
    August 27, 2009

    I suspect because it would be difficult to see galaxies through the haze introduced by intervening stars in the galactic plane, but I Am Not An Astrophysicist.

    That is a seriously beautiful image.

  4. #4 Arnold Jamtart
    August 27, 2009

    Great. Now I want cake…

  5. #5 NewEnglandBob
    August 27, 2009

    Where is Burger King in that picture?

  6. #6 mike
    August 27, 2009

    Cool! Now, how about doing it in 3D.

  7. #7 Brando
    August 27, 2009

    Whoa, that’s quite a snapshot. Interesting density distribution too.

  8. #8 bobh
    August 27, 2009

    2 and 3. Interesting question. However the galactic plane, which I assume to mean the dark bands in the milky way that prevent us from seeing the center of the milky way should only produce lack of optical seeing in one direction – towards our galaxies center. Don’t know if these are only optically observable galaxies but even if so it wouldn’t explain the bands in both directions. Is it an artifact of the survey (i.e. observations that have been made) and not real at all?

  9. #9 "GrrlScientist"
    August 27, 2009

    my first thought: wow! my second thought echoes Arnold Jamtart: mmm, donuts .. !

  10. #10 mike
    August 27, 2009

    I believe there is “stuff” on the galactic plane looking away from the galactic center; from our point of view. Is this negligible? Can we see through it?

  11. #11 jdhuey
    August 27, 2009

    Several years ago, I was in an art gallery and on display was a large block of plastic (it was shaped like a dodecahedron) that had a similar representation of the distribution of the galaxies, except that it was 3-D. The artist had used computer controlled lasers and a special plastic that would react only to certain level of light. The lasers were programed (or, at least, that was the artists claim) to intersect at a point based on the galaxies coordinates. I don’t think that there were anywhere near 100,000 points but it was still most impressive.

  12. #12 Geoff
    August 27, 2009

    The cake is a lie!

    This picture is amazing. A group at CITA at the University of Toronto has made some similar pictures from running n-body simulations of the entire universe.


    This one runs from z=50 (~ the big bang) to z=0 (now), showing how the galactic super clusters can form.

    Science needs more images like this, these are the ones that can inspire a person to learn more about the universe around them.

  13. #13 foolfodder
    August 27, 2009

    Truly, we are but mites on the navel fluff of the navel fluff of the arse wart of the universe. It feels good.

  14. #14 past4man
    August 27, 2009

    maybe the dark parts are because of not being able to get data during the daytime, and they didn’t do the survey over the course of a full year? just a guess, not sure.

  15. #15 past4man
    August 27, 2009

    no, i’m wrong, that would still only be one dark swath, not two…

    maybe because you can only see so much in the “north-south” direction in the hemisphere of the telescope (assuming ground-based)

  16. #16 mike
    August 27, 2009

    Anyone know how many light years we are looking at?

  17. #18 Robert
    August 27, 2009

    The missing data is indeed from a single swath of the sky.

    It appears to be broken into two parts because of the way it is transformed into a 2d projection of 3d space, or something like that, I don’t know the explanation for sure.

  18. #19 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    August 27, 2009

    Google really needs to get those trucks of theirs souped up if they’re gonna take street-level photos of all that.

  19. #20 Jason Dick
    August 27, 2009

    Meh, only about one millionth or so of the visible galaxies….still lots of work to do!

  20. #21 multipath
    August 27, 2009

    Cool, but for several reasons I think it gives the false impression that we’re at the center of something.

  21. #22 Robert
    August 28, 2009

    If you think that gives a false impression, you can see the original data in their paper:


    Their main accomplishment was adding detail to the filaments and voids in the large scale structure.

  22. #23 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    August 28, 2009

    @21: We are at the center of the observable universe, though.

  23. #24 Alexander Kruel
    August 28, 2009

    I have that image featured on my location page for some time now 🙂 http://xixidu.net/location/

  24. #25 rob
    August 28, 2009

    @ Naked Bunny:

    you’re wrong! *Ethan* is at the center of the observable universe. we all just happen to be within one earth diameter of him, so are only along for the ride!

  25. #26 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    August 28, 2009

    @rob: I guess I dropped a decimal point, dangit.

  26. #27 gene
    August 30, 2009

    We’re insignificant, but we can all look up in wonder!

  27. #28 Ron
    August 30, 2009

    Physicists don’t believe we’re in a Universe anymore, but in a multiverse. Latest findings from satellites are beginning to confirm the existence of parallel universes. Its incredible the immensity of this. We cannot fathom it. Science will probably never have an answer as to who lives out there, beyond us.

  28. #29 Birger Johansson
    September 1, 2009

    In “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” by the late Douglas Adams, an instrument of torture called “The Total Perspective Vortex” is intended to burn out the brain of the hapless Zaphod Breeblebox. The principle is, no one can endure seeing himself in a *true perspective* to the rest of the Universe. That perspective was extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, but this galaxy map is a better starting point!

New comments have been disabled.