3-D Map of the Universe’s Galaxies is Largest Ever

By Jordan Rice | July 15, 2016 11:06 am

A slice of the researchers’ map showing about 1/20th of the sky. Each dot represents the position of a galaxy 6 billion years into the past. Color indicates distance from Earth, ranging from yellow on the near side of the slice to purple on the far side. There are 48,741 galaxies in this picture, only about 3 percent of the total surveyed. (Credit: Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III)

In the quest for dark energy, astronomers have created an unprecedented 3-D map of galaxies in a volume of about 650 cubic billion light years.

Hundreds of astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) and the Max Planck Institutes for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) and for Astrophysics (MPA) contributed to this map. The astronomers found that the map agrees with the current cosmological model (the Lambda Cold Dark Matter model) and confirmed that dark energy is a cosmological constant.

Insights Into Dark Energy

Understanding how dark energy interacts and affects our universe is crucial to unraveling how the universe came to be and how it may end. Dark energy is believed to be what contradicts the force of gravity and is what is accelerating the expansion of the universe. These findings were submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS) as a collection of papers.

“We have spent a decade collecting measurements of 1.2 million galaxies over one quarter of the sky to map out the structure of the universe over a volume of 650 cubic billion light-years,” says Dr. Jeremy Tinker of New York University in a press release.

The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) of the SDSS-III carried out the precise measurements found. By studying the tugs between dark energy and dark matter, the scientists were able to determine the Baryonic Acoustic Oscillation (BAO) between the galaxies in the map to measure the expansion rate of the universe.

Frozen Waves

The normal BAO size is found from pressure waves that traveled throughout the universe when it was only 400,000 years old (the universe is currently 13.8 billion years old). The distribution of matter throughout the galaxy represents a frozen image of the life of these waves. All galaxies are therefore separated preferentially by a characteristic distance in what is called the BAO scale.

Using observations from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the size of the acoustic scale at the universe’s current age can be determined. This is because the light that is emitted corresponds to when the pressure waves became frozen. Seeing how the distribution of galaxies has changed since then can give astronomers clues to how dark energy and dark matter have battled over the expansion rate of the universe. Ariel Sanchez, from MPE, was the astronomer who led the search to find the total amounts of dark energy and dark matter in the universe.

“Measuring the acoustic scale across cosmic history gives a direct ruler with which to measure the universe’s expansion rate,” says Sanchez in the same press release. “ With BOSS, we have traced the BAO’s subtle imprint on the distribution of galaxies spanning a range of time from 2 to 7 billion years ago.”


An illustration showing how a 2-dimensional image of the sky was transformed into a 3-D map of the universe. (Credit: Jeremy Tinker and SDSS-III)

How Far Away?

These very precise measurements had to be analyzed many times, in particular the distances from Earth to the galaxies in the map. Using a spectrometer, the light from a galaxy appears red-shifted as it is moving away from us. The red-shift in light is how the astronomers were able to correlate the galaxy’s distance from Earth; the farther a galaxy is, the faster it moves and therefore the more it is red-shifted. Dr. Shun Saito from MPA contributed models to the BOSS data analysis.

“However, galaxies also have peculiar motions and the peculiar velocity component along the line-of-sight leads to the so-called redshift space distortion,” says Saito in the same press release. “This makes the galaxy distribution anisotropic because the line-of-sight direction is now special — only along this direction the distance is measured through a redshift, which is contaminated by peculiar velocity. In other words, the characteristic anisotropic pattern allows us to measure the peculiar velocity of galaxies — and because the motion of galaxies is governed by gravity, we can use this measurement to constrain to what level Einstein’s general relativity is correct at cosmological scales. In order to properly interpret the data, we have developed a refined model to describe the galaxy distribution.”

Another possible approach is to use the angular positions of the galaxies in the sky rather than the 3-D physical positions in the universe.

“This method uses only observables,” says Dr. Salvador Salazar, a junior MPE researcher, in the same press release. “We make no prior assumptions about the cosmological model.”

Many approaches have been used to try and analyze the huge BOSS data set. “We now have seven measurements, which are slightly different, but highly correlated,” Sanchez says in a separate press release. “To extract the most information about the cosmological parameters, we had to find not only the best methods and models for data analysis but also the optimal combination of these measurements.”

Upholds Theory

Their strenuous efforts have paid off as the BOSS data show that dark energy is causing the expansion of the universe with an error of only 5 percent in the cosmological constant found. The cosmological constant is called Lambda, as coined by Albert Einstein as a repellant effect in the universe. These findings are still consistent with the relatively young theory of the cosmological model.

The map also reveals that galaxies tend to move to areas with more matter, staying true to the laws of gravity as well as the infall of material following the laws of general relativity. This suggests that the idea of the expansion of the universe is caused by a phenomenon like dark energy that works on large cosmic scales and dismisses the notion that our laws of gravity are breaking down.

This post originally appeared on Astronomy.com.

  • OWilson

    Take the unimaginable number of galaxies we can detect, and wonder.

    Ignore the “experts” and wonder for yourself, what it is all about.

    • Erik T.

      Very good. I don’t know what it is about, but based on the size and timescales I can guarantee it has nothing to do with Jesus or Mohammad! 😉

      • mooneypn@yahoo.com

        Specifically, how can you guarantee it has nothing to do with Jesus?

        • Erik T.

          There are entire books written on the topic of synctetization, or the evolution of a story. The Jesus myth depends on the Adam and eve story. With out original sin, there is no need for Jesus to be resurrected. The original Adam and eve story existed thousands of years before Judaism and Christianity, which were both syncretized from pagan beliefs and mainly Zoroastrianism. These are all facts you can check via modern history, anthropology and archeology. Ancient sumerians looked up at the stars and saw Bootes (the Hunter) or man (Atohm) fraternizing (sharing the sky) with Virgo the Virgin (Eve) and whom both shared sky space with Draco the dragon (the serpent). There are varying myths surrounding these characters in almost all the pagan sects…Adam and eve were not peculiar to Judaism and Christianity. Each newer religion simply borrowed what they liked from the old, and discarded what they did not. The only thing that stayed consistent since the ancient sumerians first spoke of these people in the sky was that Adam and Eve “entered the garden in the east.” Remember, the world was flat to those people. So it would look like the constellations were indeed entering the tree line in the east as if entering a garden. (Astronomers have confirmed such facts.)

          When faced with the proposition that the creator of this Universe chose to have this Jesus come and mess around with only a select few chosen people, (who weren’t chosen at all, the story was shared by all kinds of ancient sects) and that Jesus travels to all world’s in this universe and does the same charade, in virtual secret, leaving no scientific trace for true science to validate….is well downright unbelievable in face of the evidence. I mean whomever wrote Genesis didnt even get the order in which the heavens and earth were made. What possible purpose would the creator of this universe have in getting her own holy book wrong on her own creation?

          I guarantee you 100% that if there is a God, she has nothing to do with Moses, Posideon, Loki, Thor, Jesus, Mythra, Mohammad, Krishna, or ANY human contrived myth story. We are just to small and insignificant to project our myopic views of religion on to the rest of the universe. I mean we haven’t even cornered interplanetary travel yet. We are mere infants in the grand scene of tbings, and could easily die out as a species and No one in the rest of the Universe, or even our own galaxy might even notice.

          • mooneypn@yahoo.com

            Erik T.
            Religious syncretism is simply not compatible with true Christianity. Religions like New Age, Hinduism, Unitarianism and Christian Science lean towards this blending of multiple different belief systems and are continually evolving as the philosophies which rise and fall in popularity. It’s a totally different concept than Christianity, so well just leave that to its self. As far as the Jesus myth you talk about (it’s not a myth, He did exist, history does prove that), as to what He did that’s a matter of faith, as God said, without faith, it’s impossible to please him. You are not going to find science proving anything in this area, so we will leave that for those who decide to believe and follow. You are right about there was no need for Jesus to be resurrected if the Adam and Eve story wasn’t in the picture and that it happened thousands of years before Judaism and Christianity. That’s common knowledge with Christians. But then you detoured to numerology, pagan religions and astrology and combined it with the Bible. The Internet will do that to people. Stick with the Word and the history that supports it, not this other nonsense. I’ve studied those things for years and they always lead to just people’s opinions, no facts. Also those alleged contradictions you see the Creation story, believe me I saw those too, but I research them out and once you get the facts, it is easy to understand. Science even proves it…that is true science, not all the scientists who are trying to disprove everything in the Bible (they cannot prove or disprove anything about God or anything relating to Him, until they get born again. Then God gives them the understanding and guides them in real truth).
            Let’s get a little deeper in your conversation. Yes, it is pretty unbelievable that God chose to do things the way He did and it cannot be understood by anyone who is not born again. The only way they will understand is to follow the truth and these things will be revealed as one walks in the Spirit with God. Now I know that sounds like I’m brainwashed and totally out there and that’s the way it should sound to an unbeliever…the Bible would be a lie if it didn’t. Believe me I was there. Concerning criticizing God on how He got it all wrong…well, that’s an opinion I have to contrast with the God who created the universe. The Bible says the foolishness of God is wiser than man. We don’t have any room to talk any sense on this. Concerning your last paragraph; you can’t guarantee anything about God or anything related to Him. You don’t even have any authority to comment, unless you are a born again believer who has that right. Jesus is the only person to be concerned about of all the people you named. He’s God and you will stand before Him one day and give account for your actions (according to the Bible). You are right about our smallness in the universe and our ignorance of all there is to learn. The Bible teaches all that (Christian 101). Thank God we will have an eternity to discuss those things after Jesus comes back and receive us onto Himself at the Second Coming. Can I prove any of this to you. Nope. No one can prove anything to anyone else, but God can show each person who gives them self to Him. It’s all faith until Jesus appears at His return. Then the facts start in these topics of conversation.
            You know, I like all the true sciences that show facts in many areas. And all the theories in science are the same as the theories in Creation. People believe in science, passing the theory, and believing it as facts, just as the Christians do with Creationism. Neither one knows until the ultimate irrefutable facts are presented. I really believe the Christians have a happy eternity and the science believers (who leave God out) will have a very unhappy ending. The fool will say, we will just see when that time comes. That’s why they are fools, it’s too late then. The Christians win, no matter what. As far as to who notices what. God notices when a sparrow falls to the ground, humans would be very important to Him. That’s why He gave His life, that we may live forever with Him, who believe in Him. Look at how much man can do with computers…think of what God can do with His computers. When He can be everywhere at the same time, His job is easy, plus He’s got all those Angels. All for us and His glory. I know this is boring to you but I just love it. And just think, I can do absolute anything I want, but instead I choose to serve God by choice. My advice, Get to know Him…soon. ☺
            Very Respectfully

          • Erik T.

            Thanks for taking care to create a thoughtful reply. I have been born again several times in my youth, but fortunately science is too thorough to be simply an opinion. After finally achieving a master degree I am qualified to assess science methodology…I can tell which research is lacking in evidence and which studies have poor conclusions based on the data. It’s sole job is to remove bias, and find facts, not something devout Christians do well. It’s actually engrained into the religions to hold faith, the opposite of fact higher than facts, and the run lies too crucial a discrepancy for most researchers on the topic of religion. The ones that can, like secular leaders of schools of religion at universities usually become agnostic if not outright atheist once presented with the facts for a reason. There simply aren’t as many as non secular religious leaders would have one believe. You have been told there is hard evidence of Jesus as a man but there isn’t even any for that, let alone a supernatural Jesus. Yes that happens to a lot of people in history, whom we still guess likely existed, but not an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God…just not believable. I have long held the belief that like Pascal, I could wager that God is real ; there isn’t any reason to not believe there could be more to life than our insignificant existence in the grand scheme of things. It just has become blatantly obvious to me that none of the world religions are true. No shroud of Turin can be authenticated, no holy grail, not even the Jewish ark of the covenant. The Gospels were written a whole generation after the supposed life of Jesus? Why? , was this God’s mysterious way? Was it also God’s mysterious way to offer that handwashing was not acceptable? It saved millions of lives when scientists said to wash hands before surgery…Jesus supposedly said the opposite. To many corroborating lines of evidence pointing to syncretism. I have a PH D friend who is Zoroastrian and can read his own biblical texts from 3000 years ago. The basic structure is there for Judaism and Christianity, but was changed, again and again and again. No holy book that provides “written word” can be changed again and again and again….without being exposed as non Godly, and simply human.

            The 10 commandments are fitting for an iron age people, but not for present day society. Slavery is unacceptable, laws govern what we do and if someone was serious about ethics and morality they go to the university department for such things. I have spent an entire carrier helping others and my favourite prof recently wrote a book which was designed to assist Catholic Priests with the rather simple task of using higher order ethics , not to cover up their sexual predators, but to properly remove them from the Church. Once again it’s science to the rescue. It always has been and always will be.

            You can look up at the stars and pray to a creator, I think one may be watching, but obviously the gift of life we have has no strings attached. We make what we will of this life and I for one sincerely hope there is more. However it would be utterly foolish to put any stock in it and have learned it is best to live each day like it is the last, as it could very well be that that is all we have. To do so with superior ethical praxis akin to that of the most thoughtful thinkers of history puts one in far greater service to any creator, even on the standard outlined by the various religions.

            You surely understand that no matter which religion or cult one prays to that people can have a similar and vindicated boundary experience, devote their life to God at it feels as real as their former life without God felt, usually better! I prayed for Jesus to enter my life and pledged to a life of service. But I have since had just as much spiritual experience, actually more, not thinking about Jesus as well. We are simply spiritual beings.

          • mooneypn@yahoo.com

            Erik T.

            You remind me of myself when in my times of doubting some things and why things are as they are if God exists. You say you have been born again several times as a youth. Well, that’s not how it works. One gets born again one time and one time only. When that happens, then they truly understand the relationship between God and man. It does not appear like that has happened with you yet. So I really would probably be wasting your time explaining these things to you because they cannot be understood from a secular point of view. God make that very clear in His Word. You have very good observations and concerns but you are searching in the wrong places. Your comments on having a master’s degree qualifying you to be able to explain science methodology has nothing to do with God and His plan of salvation of the people of the world, which can be understood by some four year olds. Again Jesus makes that very clear. Your comment of me being told of hard evidence of Jesus as a man is not true means nothing to me nor any other Christian who knows him. You can’t convince a Christian who has the Holy Spirit within them that they don’t, just because you have not had that experience. The step of faith makes that clear. You are right, it’s not believable to a nonbeliever. It’s the believers it becomes real. Your comment about your long held belief like Pascal, again is not the way. Pascal’s Wager is not the reason to be a Christian. The convincing part is what one finds out after taking that step of faith. Their mind is renewed and they become a different person. They are not controlled by the carnal nature any more. They have a new nature that allows them to overcome the world and they don’t have to be taught, it’s instantaneous. Your comment about none of the religions are true…well that’s true. Christianity is not a religion…it’s a way of life that God wants us to follow by faith. Your comment about the Should of Turin holy grail and ark of covenant…I agree with most of that. And even if we did find them, so what; that’s not where it’s at. It’s the Holy Spirit, which lives within each believer that matters. Your comments about the Gospel being written years past the happening is correct. So what? The Holy Spirit didn’t happen years after, just the Books. And the Books did not change. The original writings have been handed down and translated into other languages many times. The message of salvation is still the same. The important thing is God does not change…man does. The Word of God was the word of God long before man existed on this planet. Since God knows the beginning and the ending and has always, He knows all, all the time. We are subject to the past, present and future. That’s why we have all the questions. Your comments on the Ten Commandment are very revealing about your understanding of what God really expects out of us. It’s not even close to what the Bible says we are to do. Your answer to it being the morals that are taught by man in universities is absolutely not the answer. That falls in the category of “There is a way which seems right onto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”. Let me make this very clear, not that you would understand (until you are born again and studied up in the word, by growing from a baby in Christ to an adult in Christ) now, but you will after taking this path and letting God show you instead of trying to find out without Him. Today, if it were possible, one could keep every one of the Ten Commandment, go to church every day in their life, give 10 percent of tithes, not drink, curse, take drugs, etc and any other good thing you can think of. And still go to Hell. That has nothing to do with going to Heaven. Going to Heaven has absolutely nothing to do with doing good things, nor does going to Hell have anything to do with doing bad things. I deserve to go to Hell and so does everyone else on this planet. You go to Heaven because you are born again and you go to Hell because you are not born again. If you are born again, you obey God’s Word by the works you do reflecting the fruits of the Spirit (faith and works together is a Christian). Faith alone or works alone is not born again…it’s the imitation Christians, many of which are today, leading people astray…thinking they are saved but are not. A Christian serves God freely because they love and know him. Something that cannot be prove or transferred to another person. It’s between them and God. Everyone has to come the same way. It’s all in the Word (texts of the Bible).
            Your comments here (You can look up at the stars and pray to a creator, I think one may be watching, but obviously the gift of life we have has no strings attached. We make what we will of this life and I for one sincerely hope there is more. However it would be utterly foolish to put any stock in it and have learned it is best to live each day like it is the last, as it could very well be that that is all we have. To do so with superior ethical praxis akin to that at of the most thoughtful thinkers of history puts one in far greater service to any creator, even on the standard outlined by the various religions) are so pompous. Man, apart from knowing God could not possible make such an observation and it have any validity. Only God has that mind. Other religions are nothing to do with God…it’s man’s way to trying to find God, other than through the plan that He gave them to follow. Yes, that seems so right to them. That’s made very clear in the Bible; but it lead to spiritual death. It may feel the same but the pay off in the end is not even comparable (per God’s Word).
            Look Erik, I’ve had all these thoughts and concerns plus thousands more at one time or another, but I’ve always found the answer that is much more satisfying than the secular explanation. No I’m no brainwashed. I’m very skeptical on many issues. So were many of the disciples. God tells us in the Bible to search the scriptures and prove all things. If you do that, you get the answers God wants us to have (but you can’t do it as a nonbeliever and it’s not for nonbelievers. The only thing that is for nonbelievers is the plan of salvation, after that, you are His child and He starts giving you answers as you follow Him. There is no other name under heaven whereby a person can be saved. (per his Word).
            Erik, I can’t show you, but God can and He will show His wishes. It’s a simple step of faith, totally submitting yourself to Him. If we are not willing to do that, then we cannot be His, nor can we experience the new birth. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright …” (Proverbs 2:6). That’s something you can sink your teeth into. VR

  • Dennis McCormick-Kovacich

    “In the quest for dark energy, astronomers have created an unprecedented 3-D map of galaxies in a volume of about 650 cubic billion light years.”

    Shouldn’t that be “650 billion cubic light years”?

    • joseph2237

      Believe your right.

  • joseph2237

    We have observed 5% of the unknown universe so to infer that dark energy and matter exist and control the universe can be 95% wrong.The expanding universe can be explained in other ways. For instance, how do we know inflation stopped? It could be still going on right now at a slower rate. Scientist measure stuff like the depth of the ocean and think they know all there is to know. The universe is a very big place and there are many more things to discover than what meets the eye.


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