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Street View for the Milky Way

Humanity has gone a long way from the first scientific map of the universe created by Copernicus in 1543. Nowadays we have not only expanded our knowledge about ‘the starry sky above us’ but also improved our technologies to represent and visualize large amounts of data.

For the last 12 years, Carter Emmart, Director of Astrovisualization at American Museum of Natural History, has been coordinating efforts of scientists, artists and programmers to build a complete 3D visualization of the universe. In a recent TED talk he explained the latest results of his efforts and – at least a bit – the universe.

‘The Known Universe’ visualizes data from the Digital Universe Atlas, the most complete (and downloadable) 3D atlas of the universe. Ben R. Oppenheimer likens the atlas to Mercator’s invention of the globe: “It gave everyone a new perspective on where they live in relation to others, and we hope that the Digital Universe does the same on a grander, cosmic scale.” But do we really get beyond the horizon and understand our planet as a limited condition? There is still a long way to go, but better visualization may help.

Carter Emmart’s film was also part of a recent exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art.

Published in Art Blog Science Visualization