Astrophysicists unveiled an extensive 3D map of the universe in July 2020. Being described as the largest ever map of our universe, it covers over 2 million galaxies and 11 billion light-years of our universe’s history.
The release marks a successful 20-year era of cosmology surveys by the SDSS, a project aimed at creating detailed images of the universe. The map was a result of an extensive project which started in the year 2000.
The new detailed map released by SDSS will help scientists understand a blurry period of our universe’s history, often referred to as ‘the gap’ by astronomers. This ‘gap’ started a few billion years after the Big Bang.
Thanks to the radiation left over by the Big Bang, scientists can study the universe’s ancient history and expansion by detecting these radiations. Similarly, the more recent history of our universe can also be studied by measuring the distance of Earth and nearby galaxies, and how it expanded over time.
The period in between, however, roughly 11 billion light-years, is quite hard to study since the radiations from galaxies more than a few million light-years away are quite hard to pick. The project carried out by SDSS was an attempt to fill this gap.
During the comprehensive analysis, more than 2 million galaxies and supermassive black holes were mapped. Unfortunately for most people, you cannot spot your home on this map.
The map, which will prove extremely helpful to the progress of cosmology by helping scientists understand ‘the gap’, shows how our universe expanded over time. With our galaxy in the center, the map is a rainbow of colors, with nearby galaxies depicted by the color blue and purple, and far-off galaxies shown as red and yellow.
Cosmologists attribute the universe’s expansion to ‘dark energy, a concept we do not entirely understand yet. Studies like these are a step forward in our understanding of this mysterious force, and hopefully one day, we will be able to understand it.