Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III
Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III

Scientists Create Enormous 3D Map of Distant Galaxies

Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III
Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III

To us, the image above may look like a messperhaps the product of a bored person playing around in Microsoft Paint. To the trained eye, it contains multitudes: 48,741 galaxies, to be exact. And what we see here is just 3 percent of the big picture: the largest-ever map of the effects of dark energy on our universe. 

Measuring objects on Earth is typically a straightforward process. We can put something on a scale and see how much it weighs, or pull out a tape measure to determine its height, width and depth. But objects in space are a very different story. The distance between our eyes and the stars is so great that it adds another dimension: time. By accounting for this time, scientists can understand not only what’s going on in space now, but everything that has come before. 

One way to do that is to track baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO), or consistently sized variations in the density of visible normal (baryonic) matter. These variations work much like the inch lines on a ruler, allowing scientists to effectively measure distances. Comparing the distances between and distribution of galaxies over time essentially creates a time-lapse image that shows how, moment by moment, eon over eon, dark matter and energy are pushing apart our universe.

Capturing this information is a massive undertaking. Hundreds of astronomers and physicists joined forces to convert BAO data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III’s Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) program. They collected measurements on more than 1.2 million galaxies over one quarter of the sky, resulting in a 3D map depicting 650 cubic billion light years.

A 2D image of the sky (left) transformed into a 3D map including 120,000 galaxies—just 10 percent of the survey area. Image credit: Jeremy Tinker and SDSS-III

David Schlegel is an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a BOSS principal investigator. He and his colleagues are very proud of their work. “We’ve made the largest map for studying the 95 percent of the universe that is dark,” he said in a press statement. “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.”

A suite of papers on the map’s creation and contents has been submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
From Crab Cakes to Pepperoni Rolls: The Most Iconic Dish in Every State
iStock
iStock

Each state has a particular dish or dishes that residents hold especially dear to their hearts. West Virginians are evangelical about pepperoni rolls. Residents of Maine and Connecticut are territorial about their lobster rolls. Colorado makes license plates featuring the pueblo chile. Regional foods inspire incredible loyalty, and though you may be able to find the same chain restaurants in every state, certain foods are indelibly linked to their birthplace.

The team behind Flavored Nation—an event devoted to dishes from all 50 states that’s debuting in Columbus, Ohio in August 2018—put together the map below showing every state’s most iconic food. The dishes were chosen based on independent research, input from social media, and discussions with state tourism boards. Come August, Flavored Nation will bring chefs from all over the country to Columbus to make these dishes during the two-day event.

A map of the U.S. with a photo of a regional food placed within each state
Flavored Nation

On the map you’ll see familiar foods like deep dish pizza, Nashville hot chicken, and Philly cheese steaks alongside less-popular dishes like knoephla (a type of dumpling) in North Dakota, Idaho's finger steaks (battered and deep-fried strips of steak), and Kansas's sour cream and raisin pie.

Some picks may surprise you, like the Coney dog—which isn’t native to Coney Island in New York, but is a Michigan delicacy that involves hot dogs smothered in ground beef. Others are disappointingly mainstream, like Missouri’s barbecue or Iowa’s corn dogs.

The longer you look at the map, the hungrier you’ll get, so you might as well just start planning a road trip so you can try all these snacks for yourself.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago
iStock
iStock

Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios