This picture is what the entire observable universe looks like in a single image.

As a species, humanity has come a long way with our ingenuity, speaking of how science has greatly revolutionized our world and our place in it. We now understand our world and the worlds beyond our world better; and our understanding of the universe is ever leaping forward. But here’s the catch: can we ever imagine how the entire universe even looks like? Science, as usual, can help us to get a better look at the universe.

Related media: The Universe In 4 Minutes

Our Cosmic Selfie

The farthest thing ever made to travel from Earth by humanity is the Voyager 1. This 1970s era spacecraft is by now pretty far away out there, and guess what, it’s still sending back information to Earth. It’s pretty far away from Earth than we could have imagined; you might even wonder, can it take a photograph of the solar system? Or even the Milky Way? Short answer: No! That’s probably for a Sci-Fi movie later. But on the bright side, fortunately, with the help of a little math and artistic prowess, we now have a glimpse of what the universe looks like.

In 2012, … musician and artist Pablo Carlos Budassi created an illustration of a full-scale view of the entire observable Universe. The results of this breathtaking image looks like an enormous eyeball on a cosmic scale. In the image, you’ll notice that the sun and solar system are in the center; and as you look away from the center, you’ll notice the outer ring of the Milky Way, the Perseus arm of the Milky Way, a ring of our nearby galactic neighbor Andromeda, the rest of the cosmic web, cosmic background radiation (CBR) — leftover from the Big Bang — and last but not least, the Big Bang’s ring of plasma.

Art Meets Science

Image: Pablo Carlos Budassi / Wikimedia Commons

The artistic idea behind this graphical image of the universe is pretty awesome. You might have noticed that the Earth looks quite bigger in comparison to pretty much every other object depicted in the image. Budassi created the image on a logarithmic scale, and not the usual linear scale you often see in astronomical illustrations.

If he hadn’t, the image would be impractically humongous — this is imagining the cosmic scale in just a single image. To get a better understanding of the scale, think of this flat image as a cone pointed straight at you. The sun is at the tip. Each section of the cone further away from you represents a field of view several orders of magnitude larger than the one before it.

How About A Selfie Next Time

Budassi created this image from the collection of several maps and photographs, and data he acquired from researchers at Princeton and (you guessed it) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Back in 2005, a team of Princeton researchers published a collection of logarithmic maps of the universe in the Astrophysical Journal. Here’s a sample of what were published.

The researchers were able to accurately “display the entire range of astronomical scales from the Earth’s neighborhood to the CBR” to a logarithmic scale. Budassi used that information and composed the more noticeable graphical image of the universe with the aid of Photoshop. The final result? A cosmic-eyeball of our universe. It seems that’s how best we’ve gotten with our cosmic arts.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Thu, Mar 07, 2019.


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