05/27/2011 01:49 pm ET | Updated Jul 27, 2011

3D Map Of The Universe Is the Most Complete To Date

Feast your eyes on the universe.

Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics released the most complete 3D map of the universe ever created. The map, called the 2MASS Redshift Survey, spans a distance of 380 million light years, and took over ten years to complete.

Scientists collected data for the map by scanning near-infrared light, the spectral region where interstellar dust is most transparent. The researchers discovered over 43,00 galaxies. The map is color coded so that the most distant galaxies are red, and nearby galaxies purple.

The scientists initially had a 2D image that did not account for distances, and so turned to redshift calculations to formulate a 3D image. The light from distant galaxies experiences redshift, an increase in wavelength, as a result of the expansion of the universe. Galaxies farther away have higher redshift, and so scientists can use these measurements to calculate galaxy distances.

The new map uncovered "massive local structures" in the Milky Way that had previously been hidden. Such information may help scientists understand better how the Milky Way moves in relation to the rest of the universe, a longstanding mystery. Find out more about the map here.

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