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This Image of the Universe Captures Its Immensity

Comets, planets, galaxies and the cosmic web crowd together in this portrait of everything known

A logarithmic scale captures the whole universe (Unmismoobjetivo/Pablo Carlos Budassi via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0))
smithsonian.com

The universe is mind-bogglingly huge and increasingly growing larger, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to map the whole thing. Musician and artist Pablo Carlos Budassi is the latest person to take on this momentous task with his image of the observable universe.

Like many maps of the Earth, this one places home right at the center. From that perhaps self-centered but logical position, the universe expands as a bubble around the Sun, the other planets, the Kuiper belt, and the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way galaxy. The image continues on to show both neighboring galaxies like Andromeda and more distant galaxies. The edges of the image spider out into the cosmic web and to the very edge of what astronomers can see: the echoes of the Big Bang itself

How did Budassi cram everything into a single image? By using the power of the logarithmic scale, reports Bec Crew for ScienceAlert.

If you follow the axes on a logarithmic graphs, the scale increases by a factor of 10 instead of equal increments, Crew explains. So, the magnitude of what is captured increases rapidly as the observer scans along the axis, which allows the image-maker to show detail of things that are close by and still capture objects far away.

The artist was originally inspired by logarithmic-based depictions of the universe created by a team of researchers at Princeton University. But in Budassi’s image, the logarithmic scale proceeds from the center to the outside edge.

The artist assembled images captured by NASA in Photoshop and added some of his own textures to represent the whole universe, reports Kelly Dickerson for Tech Insider. A high resolution, zoom-able version can be found online at Wikimedia Commons. He has some other great images uploaded as well. 

As cool as the image is, the viewer may find it difficult to grasp the scale. To get a feel for the size difference between some of the objects shown, Michael Huang​ developed a mesmerizing visualization in 2012, that is definitely worth a peek. Without the logarithmic scale, Budassi's mind-boggling image would turn into a mind-numbing exercise.

So bask in the beauty of Budassi’s vision, wherein the entirety of the universe is comfortably, neatly, enclosed in a circle. 

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