This 3-D Map Will Make Teaching the Universe a Whole Lot Cooler
NASA's shuttle program may be winding down, but that doesn't mean there isn't a whole universe left to explore—and a whole new generation of astronomers and astronauts to get excited about life beyond our chunk of rock. Now, thanks to 10 years of work on the part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, budding scientists will now have a better picture, literally, of what's out there than we've ever had. The image above is the result of the 2MASS Redshift Survey (2MRS) and is "the most complete 3-D map of the local universe (out to a distance of 380 million light-years) ever created."
Not only is the map gorgeous (click here for a hi-res version) and destined to make teaching the specifics of the universe a whole lot easier, the technology behind it is also pretty sweet. The survey "scanned the entire sky in three near-infrared wavelength bands," because "near-infrared light penetrates intervening dust better than visible light, allowing astronomers to see more of the sky." They then "redshifted" a galaxy's light by stretching it, which allows them to see (and map) the third dimension.
Maybe one day, along with a map of the United States and globes or maps of the earth, we'll also see maps of the universe in every classroom.