Your interactive stellar neighborhood

By Phil Plait | October 30, 2008 9:00 am

BABloggee and game designer Krystian Majewski put together a very cool Flash interactive map of the 32 nearest known stars. You can rotate it, zoom (though my mouse is set funny and the wheel won’t zoom), and mouse over the stars to get information. Can you guess which star is which before you mouse over them?

He also wrote up a description and history of why he put the map together. It’s very cool, and worth checking out. Krystian, your next step: do this for the local group of galaxies!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff
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Comments (50)

  1. Congratulations Kystian. That is wicked cool. I love it.

    The Star Trek Stellar Cartography Room can’t be far off now…

  2. Andy Beaton

    I identified Sirius and Procyon by their colours. All the little red guys, not so much. What do I win?

  3. IVAN3MAN

    COOL! I managed to identify Alpha Centauri, Barnard’s Star, Groombridge 34, and Sirius (seriously!).

  4. IVAN3MAN

    Another cool thing: by mousing over the star and ‘tapping’ on it, you’re automatically directed to the Wikipedia article on that star.

  5. feroxx

    I got Alpha & Proxima Centauri and Sirius, and I knew one of them must be Barnard’s Star.

    Nice, clean Applet.

  6. And you can spin it really fast.
    😀

  7. Awesome! A few questions from a non-astronomer though. Are the distances relatively correct to each other? Because I thought the closest star past Proxima and Alpha Centauri was way way out there. Also, I was under the impression the Sun was a relatively small star, does this mean bigger stars are very rare? At least in our local group?

  8. mike

    All those within 14 ly? Any planets found near any of them?

  9. Very cool!

    I guessed the Sun…

  10. DK

    Interesting that a game designer helped get this on the road.
    The people behind a 4X game (Sword of the Stars) also did something like this for it – one of the maps to play on is a 3D map of our nearest stars with correct distances and names. It’s pretty fun in a “conquer our actual galaxy” sort of way – even though having LX-### isn’t nearly as impressive as having a named star.

  11. Thanks 10^6 Phil!
    Now I have a really frakkin’ cool “Website of the Month” for my PowerPoint prezo for November’s CAS meeting at McCormick Observatory!
    BTW, Ed Murphy says “Hi!”
    Rich in Charlottesville

  12. There is a web-site called An Atlas of The Universe (click on my name for the link) that gives an idea of what our Universe actually looks like in approximate scale, but not interactive like this one.

  13. James

    This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. Shane is right, the Cartography Room is not far off now. It reminds me of the Star Wars episode where they were looking at different star systems by walking through them in a 3D array all around them. Is that the next step for planetariums?

    Well, I guess it depends on who is elected…but I digress! Very cool, I bookmarked that site.

  14. Ivan3Man that is great. Thanks. I always wanted to see something like this. With all those big numbers and different measures one loses the perspective of how far things really are.

  15. mike:

    All those within 14 ly? Any planets found near any of them?

    There is another web-site called Planet Quest (click on my name for the link) that is interactive and can answer your question. Also, it has an interactive 3D map feature, similar to the one Phil linked to, but requires Shockwave player.

  16. IVAN3MAN

    You’re welcome, Juan.

  17. Ok, I going to trash all my bookmarks and links to wikipedia and the like… It appears we have an interactive AI at work here…

    Let’s try this then, IVAN3MAN, I need to find a sushi bar in… um… I dunno… Halifax Nova Scotia?

  18. Craig

    I’m confused by some of the info presented; Alpha Centauri (which I never knew was a binary star system) is the closest system to our own, and yet the description of Proxima Centauri is that it is the closest star to our own star. Can someone elaborate for me? A. Centauri is closer to our system by virtue of the edge of the solar system while P. Centauri is strictly from star to star? Is that correct?

    Also, why are some of the names of stars so cryptic? Is that simply some kind of a registry/catalogue name versus the überkool names like Sirius and Betelgeuse et al.?

  19. Siri

    What! You guys! Nobody identified the Sun? 😉 I did! And the Centauris and the Bernard’s. That’s it.

    Siri.

  20. I never used the work kewl before, but I think this might be an appropriate time.

    Kewl.

    I really like it when astrony information includes distances and sizes. It helps me make sense of scales.

  21. Scott Halls

    Thanks Phil,

    It is also worth checking out :
    http://www.exosolar.net/start.html

    And if you want to make one yourself, this site has proved useful to me and has all the equations you need.
    http://www.projectrho.com/starmap.html

    Cheers,
    Scott

  22. Mus

    Cool! when will the milky way version come out?

  23. Thanks for the feedback guys! And thanks to Phil for linking it! :-)

    Craig – The Alpha Centauri thing confused me too. Proxima Centauri is the nearest single star. However, it seems to oribit the two Alpha Centauri stars (at a very high distance) which would make it a star in the Alpha Centauri system. If this is true, then Alpha Centauri is actually the nearest STAR SYSTEM and Proximal Centauri is the nearest STAR.

    Juan – the distances are measured from the Sun. And yes there are some other Stars almost as near as Proxima Centauri. For example, Barnard’s Star was chosen for the british interplanetary study Project Daedalus (just Google “Project Daedalus”). It is “only” about 1,6ly further away. Most of the stars within 14ly are at less massive then the Sun. I don’t know about the rest of the galaxy but it might be harder to find small stars further out. Some of the 32 stars in my model have been found as lately as 2003 because they were so dim. The Sun itself is no longer visible with the naked eye at a distance of “only” 50ly.

  24. Craig

    @Krystian: Thanks for the clarification!

  25. PAS

    I’ve been thinking about something like this for a while now. Sadly, my intertoob skills aren’t anywhere near up to the task of making it myself.

    It’s easy to imagine how this might be expanded not only spatially, but also to include nebula, supernova remnants, etc. Do you think Astronomy’s image processing methods are advanced enough to produce 3D models of larger structures (i.e. nebulae), that could be included in future versions of something like this? I realize that the farther out you go, the more approximate distances get, but I’d be more than willing to accept those error bars for the ability to take a virtual tour of the neighborhood. And I think it would make the difference for a lot of people (not just kids) when it comes to getting hooked on astronomy.

  26. i

    shane:

    Let’s try this then, IVAN3MAN, I need to find a sushi bar in… um… I dunno… Halifax Nova Scotia?

    List of Sushi restaurants in Halifax, Nova Scotia:

    I Love Sushi Japanese Restaurant Inc – 902-429-6168
    5232 Blowers Street , Halifax , NS B3J 1J7

    Sushi Nami Royale – 902-422-9020
    1535 Dresden Row , Halifax , NS B3J 3T1

    Hamachi Grill & Sushi House – 902-444-4688
    644 Portland , Dartmouth , NS B2W 2M7

    Hamachi House Fine Japanese Cuisine – 902-425-7711
    5190 Morris Street , Halifax , NS B3J 1B3

    Hamachi Kita Sushi & Asian Flare – 902-431-5543
    5543 Young St (Hydrostone Market) NS

    Dharma-Sushi – 902-425-7785
    1576 Argyle Street , Halifax , NS B3J 2B3

    Hamachi Kita Sushi & Asian Flare – 902-431-5543
    5543 Young Street , Halifax , NS B3K 1Z7

    Ichiban Sushi and Noodle – 902-420-0194
    1505 Barrington Street , Halifax , NS B3J 3K5

    Milamodo Sushi Inc – 902-446-6888
    30 Farnham Gate Road , Halifax , NS B3M 3W8

    Minato Sushi Japanese Restaurant – 902-420-0331
    1520 Queen Street , Halifax , NS B3J 2H8

    Sushi Nami Kiosk – 902-425-5225
    1515 Dresden Row , Halifax , NS B3J 4B1

    Sushi Shige Japanese Restaurant Inc – 902-422-0740
    5680 Spring Garden Road , Halifax , NS B3J 1H5

    Sushi Tonari – 902-835-3437
    Sunnyside Mall , Halifax , NS B4A 4M5

    —————————————————————————-

    Sorry about the delay, mate, I had a spot of bother with Internet Explorer 7 having ‘one of its turns’.

    N.B. I do have Firefox 3.0.3.

  27. IVAN3MAN

    ERRATUM:

    shane:

    Let’s try this then, IVAN3MAN, I need to find a sushi bar in… um… I dunno… Halifax Nova Scotia?

    Love Sushi Japanese Restaurant Inc – 902-429-6168
    5232 Blowers Street , Halifax , NS B3J 1J7

    Sushi Nami Royale – 902-422-9020
    1535 Dresden Row , Halifax , NS B3J 3T1

    Hamachi Grill & Sushi House – 902-444-4688
    644 Portland , Dartmouth , NS B2W 2M7

    Hamachi House Fine Japanese Cuisine – 902-425-7711
    5190 Morris Street , Halifax , NS B3J 1B3

    Hamachi Kita Sushi & Asian Flare – 902-431-5543
    5543 Young St (Hydrostone Market) NS

    Dharma-Sushi – 902-425-7785
    1576 Argyle Street , Halifax , NS B3J 2B3

    Hamachi Kita Sushi & Asian Flare – 902-431-5543
    5543 Young Street , Halifax , NS B3K 1Z7

    Ichiban Sushi and Noodle – 902-420-0194
    1505 Barrington Street , Halifax , NS B3J 3K5

    Milamodo Sushi Inc – 902-446-6888
    30 Farnham Gate Road , Halifax , NS B3M 3W8

    Minato Sushi Japanese Restaurant – 902-420-0331
    1520 Queen Street , Halifax , NS B3J 2H8

    Sushi Nami Kiosk – 902-425-5225
    1515 Dresden Row , Halifax , NS B3J 4B1

    Sushi Shige Japanese Restaurant Inc – 902-422-0740
    5680 Spring Garden Road , Halifax , NS B3J 1H5

    Sushi Tonari – 902-835-3437
    Sunnyside Mall , Halifax , NS B4A 4M5

    —————————————————————————-

    Sorry about the delay, mate, I had a spot of bother with Internet Explorer 7 having ‘one of its turns’.

    N.B. I do have Firefox 3.0.3.

  28. madge
  29. PAS Says – good idea! However I actually don’t know if a Nebula is something that could be repoduced virtually. I guess the main challenge here would be to actually find some data on the shape of a given Nebula. I have no idea where to find such data exist or if it even possible. The problem is that we can’t take pictures of such a nebula from different points of view to determine its shape. To the Astronomers here: do you know any research project that tried to figure out the 3D shape of a nebula?
    Well and then, even if you have the shape my experience is that fuzzy translucent object are actually very difficult to grasp by the observer in such an application because they don’t have a crisp surface. We understand 3-dimensional Objects by observing its surface. Nevertheless, I would be very eager to try it out!

  30. Kewl.

    It does make me wonder where the heck the Borg were coming from that they passed by Wolf 359. Depending on which side of the galactic core the Delta Quadrant is on, I’d think GI 628 or Ross 154 would be more likely.

  31. Will

    I got 8 stars right. I also guessed that Procyon and Barnards Star were on the list, but I didn’t locate them.

    It says something about me that the first one I got right was Wolf 359, but that was because of Star Trek :)

  32. Kelle Cruz

    The folks at the American Museum of Natural History have developed software called the Digital Universe that allows you to “fly” through the Universe in 3D.
    http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/universe/about

    I’m not sure how it handles nebulae…

  33. Craig

    If Proxima Centauri actually does orbit Alpha Centauri, would that mean that the binary system is therefore actually a trinary? Or is the period of orbit of P. Centauri too large? What is the criteria for establishing a system as a binary? Is this as complicated as the criteria for establishing what is or is not a planet?

    Dwarf binaries, anyone? [grin]

  34. IVAN3MAN

    @ Craig

    Together, all three components of Alpha Centauri make a triple star system, referred by double star observers as the triple star (or multiple star), α Cen AB-C. This naming system allows specialist double star astronomers to define system components and the relationships between the different components. Proxima Centauri is a visual double, which is assumed to be gravitationally associated with α Cen AB system; however, direct evidence that it has an elliptic orbit typical of binary stars is yet to be found.

  35. BaldApe

    The thing that really struck me is how few of the closest stars are among the well-known named stars, IOW, bright as seen from Earth. Sirius, Procyon, Alpha and Proxima Centauri were the only ones I recognized by name as naked eye visible.

  36. @ Craig – “Dwarf binaries, anyone? [grin]”

    That’s nothing. Check out Epsilon Indi (yellow star far below the grid). It is an orange dwarf with a binary brown dwarf companion. It is actually difficult enough to define the difference between a brown dwarf and a star but here we even have two such brown dwarfs orbiting each other while they orbit another star. And to make matters even more weird, they orbit Epsilon Indi at a distance of 1500au (1500 times the distance between earth and sun).

    It’s like somebody is TRYING to come up with weird cases like this to challenge the categories we’ve established.

  37. Craig

    @Krystian
    I can’t even begin to imagine the math needed to figure out, say, the gravity effects that go on in a system like that. Is it likely that the binary stars have been captured by the gravity of a larger star and fell into orbit?

    The more I learn about this the more I want to know!

  38. IVAN3MAN, I have warned you before. Please watch your language here. Read the commenting policy.

  39. IVAN3MAN

    Sorry about that, Phil Plait, but since you’re reading this thread would you please delete my earlier post with the name “i” because it was submitted in error before I had a chance to fully type out my name, and in future I’ll promise not to be a bad boy. 😉

  40. ND

    There are two free planetarium software that people here might be interested in, google for “stellarium” and “celestia”.

    The latter represents the universe in 3D and allows you to jump from planet to planet to star and even galaxies.

  41. Tim G

    A recent Gallup poll indicated that 94% of Earthlings are unable to locate Sol on a map of local stars.

  42. I think if you took 94% of Earthlings outside and asked them to point at Sol they couldn’t do it.

  43. Phil Plait Says: “IVAN3MAN, I have warned you before. Please watch your language here. Read the commenting policy.”

    What? Does “spot of bother” have some hidden meaning I don’t know about?

    – Jack

  44. IVAN3MAN

    @ Jack Hagerty

    What I actually said, out of frustration because I had accidentally submitted my post before I had fully typed out my name, was: “Phil Plait, we seriously need a preview/edit feature here, _________*!”

    *The missing word is the adult version of Deputy Dawg’s “dagnamit” with a deity prefix.

    Man, some people are over-sensitive!

  45. StevoR

    Awesome! Thanks for posting this & an even bigger thankyou to Krystian Majewski for creating it! 8) 😀

  46. StevoR

    IVAN3MAN said & I heartily agree :

    “Phil Plait, we seriously need a preview/edit feature here!”

    Consider that seconded by me. Surely, surely we get some way of editing posts here, Phil … Please!

  47. StevoR

    Really, how hard can it be?

    I’ve seen some other blogs that have editing capabilities .. Allowing us to edit would be so good. Please dr Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer, sir, please! For pity’s sake! Let us edit here!

    Not beingable to editand take out typoos and spacingerroahs and suchlike is so frakkin frustrating!!! :-(

  48. Joker

    Swearing-wise, I’m never sure here what I can & can’t say here ..

    G-d-mitt isn’t okay even though its a skeptcial atheist blog? Huh?

    Frakkin is okay isn’t it because itsa euphemism even though we all know what ist a euphemism for?

    Come on! Anybody over theage of about three and many below that know mostor all the major swear words anyhow. This whole issue is absurd.

    Anti-swearing prissinness just sux. Can I say that?

    Oh & BA, could youpost here a list here of all the naughty-naughty, “Ned F.N. Flanders wouldn’t say it” words that we’re NOT allowed to post? Y’know just so we don’t post ’em? 😉

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