A team of astronomers has created the largest ever three-dimensional map of our galaxy’s cosmic dust — and you can fly right through it.
The researchers, from Harvard University, have mapped out the distribution of space dust across three quarters of the night sky. They did that using data about 800 million stars taken with the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii. They calculated exactly where dust existed by measuring the red hue that it lends to stars in the data acquired by the telescope — in much the same way that particles around Earth cause sunsets to look reddish orange.
The results, soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, have been turned into a series of fly-through videos by the researchers. The one above, for instance, takes you on a spin around our very own Sun, labelled Sol. Elsewhere, though, you can explore the team’s 3D Dust Mapping site which contains even bigger tours of the galaxy.
Aside from looking amazing, the resulting maps should help astronomers understand the Milky Way in more detail than ever.