Friday, January 14, 2011

Complete Visual Map of the Night Sky

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) project put together the most complete map of the Universe and it's searchable. So take a shower, set the microwave and mini-fridge close to you and make sure your seat is comfortable. Because once you log on... you won't be logging off any time soon!

One of the difficulties in studying the entire universe is getting enough information to make a picture. Astronomers designed the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to address this problem in a direct and ambitious way: the SDSS gathers a body of data large enough and accurate enough to address a broad range of astronomical questions.
The SDSS has obtained high-resolution pictures of one quarter of the entire sky in five different colors. From these pictures, advanced image processing software will measure the shape, brightness, and color of hundreds of millions of astronomical objects including stars, galaxies, quasars (compact but very bright objects thought to be powered by material falling into giant black holes), and an array of other celestial exotica. Selected galaxies, quasars, and stars are observed using an instrument called a spectrograph to determine accurate distances to a million galaxies and 100,000 quasars, and to provide a wealth of information about the individual objects. These data give the astronomical community one of the things it needs most: a comprehensive catalog of the constituents of a representative part of the universe. SDSS's map will reveal how big the largest structures in our universe are, and what they look like. It will help us understand the mechanisms that converted a uniform "primordial soup" into a frothy network of galaxies.

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