Nikita Shtarkman – an MFA Design and Technology student at Parsons and former Johns Hopkins computer science student – has joined forces with astrophysicist Dr. Brice Ménard to create a map of the observable universe. The map plots “for the first time the span of the entire known cosmos with pinpoint accuracy and sweeping beauty”, a press release states. It also offers an easy way for the public to experience data that has so far only been available to scientists.
Users heading to Map of The Universe, will find a V-shaped “slice of the universe”, totalling around 200,000 galaxies in total. Each dot on the map is one galaxy – the Milky Way is plotted at the very bottom before the map expands outwards, revealing billions of stars and planets above. The site allows users to “travel through the universe” simply by scrolling. The map then changes colour as you move upwards; the farther away an object is, the redder it appears. At the top, you can find an actual photograph of the first flash of light emitted after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago.
“We are used to seeing astronomical pictures showing one galaxy here, one galaxy there or perhaps a group of galaxies,” says Brice Ménard. “But what this map shows is a very, very different scale.”
The project was created with data mined over two decades by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey – an initiative which uses a telescope aimed at slightly different locations in New Mexico to capture an unusually broad perspective. Johns Hopkins University astronomers then converted this data into the dynamic map, which users can also download for free via the host site.
“Astrophysicists around the world have been analysing this data for years, leading to thousands of scientific papers and discoveries,” says Brice. “But nobody took the time to create a map that is beautiful, scientifically accurate, and accessible to people who are not scientists. Our goal here is to show everybody what the universe really looks like.”
GalleryNikita Shtarkman / Brice Ménard, Johns Hopkins University: The Map of the Universe (Copyright © Johns Hopkins University, 2022)
Nikita Shtarkman / Brice Ménard, Johns Hopkins University: The Map of the Universe (Copyright © Johns Hopkins University, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.