One billion galaxies: astronomers reveal the largest sky map of all time (10 trillion pixels)

A program with which a new high-resolution space map could be created (photo illustration). Image Credit: Shutterstock / NASA Images

Modern astronomical observations show that the universe is expanding. The galaxies are moving away from each other at an increasingly impressive rate. In 1998, scientists discovered that the force responsible for this expansion is called dark energy. Dark energy is still a mystery even though it makes up about 70% of the constituent parts of the universe.

Large-scale measurements of galaxies can help understand the distribution of matter as well as the mechanism of cosmos expansion. For this reason, the Legacy Imaging Surveys project was started. This is a scientific program based on data provided by the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). This program enabled the creation of a new high-resolution space map.

One billion galaxies

The map in question is available on the Legacy Survey Sky Viewer website. It covers about half of the observable universe and includes almost a billion galaxies. The resolution is so high that it corresponds to 833,000 high-resolution smartphone photos, more precisely 10 trillion pixels. You should know that this 2D map was made thanks to a collaboration between the Kitt Peak National Observatory, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and the American Space Agency (NASA) WISE (Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer) project). It took almost six years of work and the use of 5,000 photo robots.

Understand dark energy better

“For millennia, people have been using maps to understand and navigate our world and to put ourselves in context: We rely on maps to know where we are, where we are from and where we are going. Astronomical maps continue this tradition on a grand scale, ”wrote the NOIRLab of the National Science Foundation, one of the institutions involved in the project, in a blog post.

Indeed, astronomical maps are essential to better understanding the cosmos and solving the puzzles surrounding dark energy. With this plan of unprecedented precision, accessible to all, astronomers therefore have a new valuable tool.

“People have been using maps to understand and navigate our world for millennia.” Photo credit: Shutterstock / Meet

A 3D map in perspective

Note that the data collected through the DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys program not only helped create this new observable sky map, but also enabled important scientific discoveries, especially brown dwarfs. But the team wants to be even more ambitious. Among other things, she is planning a 3D map of the universe. This realization will be possible by taking into account the positions and distance of the galaxies in relation to the Earth.