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Take a Flight Through Our Universe

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) has issued the biggest 3D map of massive galaxies and distant black holes ever made, pinpointing positions and distances of over a million galaxies. It covers a total volume corresponding to that of a cube four billion light-years on a side. A video issued with the map takes audiences on an animated flight through the Universe as seen by SDSS. There are about 400,000 galaxies in the animation, which places zoomed-in images of neighboring galaxies at the positions of more distant galaxies charted by SDSS.

Daniel Eisenstein (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), the director of SDSS-III said “We want to map the largest volume of the universe yet, and to use that map to understand how the expansion of the universe is accelerating,”

The chart is the centerpiece of Data Release 9 (DR9), which openly releases the data from the first two years of a six-year survey mission. The release contains images of 200 million galaxies and spectra of 1.35 million galaxies. (Spectra take extra time to gather than photographs, but deliver the crucial third dimension by allowing astronomers measure galaxy distances.) Michael Blanton of New York University, who led the team that prepared Data Release,  said “Our goal is to create a catalog that will be used long after we are done,”

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