Toronto Star

Entire known universe in one picture

Argentine musician/artist Pablo Carlos Budassi has created a mind-boggling map with help from Princeton and NASA


1. Big Bang

Budassi looked at a 2005 logarithmi­c map from Princeton University that took real data from telescopes and used an exponentia­l scale to mark distant galaxies and stars with NASA images manipulate­d in Photoshop. The farthest edge of the map represents the Big Bang, which happened almost 14 billion years ago. “(That) blows lots of minds because when we look at the night sky we are not looking at an instant picture; rather we are looking to infinity of places and times,” says Budassi.

2. Cosmic microwave background

This is the oldest light in the universe, left over from the Big Bang. “The map is shaped in a circle to include features from different orders of magnitude structures in the universe,” Budassi wrote. “As light travels at a finite speed, the light arriving to our telescopes, eyes and cameras is from different ages of the universe. The farther we are looking, the older the photo is.”

3. Cosmic web

Our sun is just one star. Stars are organized into galaxies, which form galaxy groups, galaxy clusters, super clusters, sheets, walls and filaments separated by voids. All of it creates a foam-like structure called the “cosmic web.”

4. Milky Way galaxy

Our Milky Way is included in the “local group” of galaxies, along with more than 50 others. Most of them are dwarf galaxies. Budassi said the image took about five days to put together, with a few more nights to fix details. He says he was inspired to create this image while working on an earlier incarnatio­n as a party favour for his son’s birthday.

5. Earth and our solar system

Our own solar system is at the heart of the logarithmi­c map. University of Washington astronomy professor Mario Juric, who was

part of the Princeton team that produced the original map, compares Earth’s prominent position to an old New Yorker cartoon in which Manhattan streets form an exaggerate­d part of the world, inflating our own sense of importance as just one blue dot in the universe. The map is designed that way “because we care about every single piece of rock in our solar system,” says Juric.

6. Andromeda galaxy

Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way and is the largest galaxy of the local group.

7. Alpha Centauri

This is the closest star system to our sun. Our neighbour consists of three stars: the pair Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B as well as a small, faint red dwarf — the astronomic­al term for an old, relatively cool star — called Alpha Centauri C. To the naked eye, Alpha Centauri appears as one object, the third-brightest star in the night sky.

8. Oort Cloud

Juric said he’s glad this map will get a wider audience thinking about the universe, including the Oort Cloud, a shell of icy objects in the outer part of the solar system, named after a Dutch astronomer. “You can tell it’s done by an artist as opposed to an astronomer because it’s actually pleasant to look at,” says Juric.

9. Voyager 1

Voyager 1 is going where no one has gone before. Launched on Sept. 5, 1977, it is the spacecraft that has travelled the farthest from Earth. Its place on the logarithmi­c map shows just how little of the universe humans have really explored.

10. Radio signals from Earth

This spot on the map shows how far the Earth’s earliest radio signals have travelled. Because of the length of time it takes radio signals to move through space, they would leave the impression that humans had not yet discovered space travel. “If you had an alien with a really good radio receiver, they could be listening to our early 20th-century broadcasts,” said Juric. “To them, we’re in the past.”

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