A team comprising hundreds of physicists and astronomers have collaborated to create the largest three-dimensional map of the universe.
The maps, containing 1.2 million galaxies, was created as a means of precisely measuring the mysterious dark energy which is causing the universe to expand at an increasing speed.
Jeremy Tinker of New York University, a co-leader of the scientific team explains the magnitude of the accomplishment: “We have spent five years collecting measurements of 1.2 million galaxies over one quarter of the sky to map out the structure of the Universe over a volume of 650 cubic billion light years,”
The image above is just a tiny slice of the known universe and represents 1/20th of the night sky.
What you’re essentially looking at is a section of space that’s 6 billion light-years wide, 4.5 billion light-years high and 500 million light-years thick. Containing a mere 48,741 galaxies the image represents just three per cent of the data collected.
Why collect so much information? With so little known about the properties and relationships of both dark matter and dark energy the huge map will hopefully reveal the speed at which the universe is expanding and in turn provide priceless information for scientists.
The map’s primary function is not to show the galaxies themselves but the space in between - the 95 per cent of matter which makes up our universe.
David Schlegel, an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and principal investigator for BOSS explains: “In this map, we can see galaxies being gravitationally pulled towards other galaxies by dark matter. And on much larger scales, we see the effect of dark energy ripping the universe apart.”
While significant for its scale, the map provides further evidence for the standard cosmological model which has been slowly fine tuned over the last 18 years.
NASA’s Most Famous Images:
Edward H. White II, pilot of the Gemini 4 spacecraft, floats in the zero gravity of space with an earth limb backdrop circa November 1965.
Kinescope images of astronaut Commander Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 space shuttle during the space mission to land on the moon for the first time in history on July 20, 1969
The ascent stage of Orion, the Apollo 16 Lunar Module, lifts of from its descent stage to rendezvous with the Apollo 16 Command and Service Module, Casper, with astronaut Thomas Mattingly aboard in lunar orbit on 23rd April 1972.
Five NASA astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis look out overhead windows on the aft flight deck toward their counterparts aboard the Mir Space Station in March of 1996.
Photograph of the Milky Way Galaxy captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Dated 2007.
The exhaust plume from space shuttle Atlantis is seen through the window of a Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) as it launches from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center July 8, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket carrying NASA's first Orion deep space exploration craft sits on its launch pad as it is prepared for a 7:05 AM launch on December 4, 2014 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
A military pilot sits in the cockpit of an X-15 experimental rocket aircraft, wearing an astronaut's spacesuit circa 1959.
Echo 1, a spherical balloon with a metalized skin, was launched by NASA on 12th August 1960. Once in orbit the balloon was inflated until it reached its intended diameter of 30 metres and it was then used as a reflector to bounce radio signals across the oceans.
Four views of Earth rising above the lunar horizon, photographed by the crew of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module, while in lunar orbit, May 1969.
American geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan Schmitt stands next to the US flag on the surface of the moon, during a period of EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site, December 1972.
The space shuttle 'Enterprise' (NASA Orbiter Vehicle 101) makes its way along Rideout Road (Alabama State Route 255) to the Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama, 15th March 1978.
A crowd of people, viewed from behind, watch the launch of the first NASA Space Shuttle mission (STS-1), with Columbia (OV-102) soaring up into the sky, leaving a trail of exhaust smoke, in the distance from the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, 12 April 1981.
Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed at his maximum distance (320 ft) from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984.
Aerial shot of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-41-D) as it takes off, leaving a trail of exhaust smoke, from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, 30 August 1984.
Two technicians inside a Space Shuttle external tank, circa 1985.
An astronaut's bootprint leaves a mark on the lunar surface July 20, 1969 on the moon. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon mission is celebrated July 20, 1999.
Astronaut Charles Moss Duke, Jr. leaves a photograph of his family on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, 23rd April 1972.