Map scale

A logarithmic map of the entire observable universe

A logarithmic map of the entire observable universe

Within the scientific community, it is widely accepted that so far humans have only discovered about 5% of the universe.

Yet, although he knows only one fraction of what exists, we have still managed to discover galaxies billions of light years from Earth.

This chart by Pablo Carlos Budassi provides a logarithmic map of the entire known universe, using data from researchers at Princeton University and updated as of May 2022.

How does the card work?

Before we dive in, it’s worth touching on a few key map details.

First of all, it is important to note that the celestial objects represented on this map are not shown to scale. If scaled with sizes relative to how we see them from Earth, almost all objects would be tiny dots (except the Moon, Sun, and some nebulae and galaxies ).

Second, each object’s distance from Earth is measured on a logarithmic scale, which increases exponentially, to account for all the data.

In our solar system, the scale of the map extends astronomical units (AU), roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Beyond that, it grows to measure millions of parsecseach being equal to 3.26 light-years, or 206,000 AU.

Explore the map

The map highlights a number of different celestial objects, including:

  • The solar system
  • Comets and asteroids
  • Star systems and clusters
  • Nebulae
  • Galaxies, including the Milky Way
  • Clusters of galaxies
  • Cosmic microwave background – Big Bang radiation remnants

Featured are some recently discovered objects, such as the most distant known galaxy to date, HD1. Scientists believe this newly discovered galaxy formed just 330 million years old after the Big Bang, about 8.4 billion years before Earth.

It also highlights some newly deployed spacecraft, including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is NASA’s latest infrared telescope, and the Tiangong space station, which was made by China and launched in April 2021.

Why is it called the “observable” universe?

Humanity has been interested in space for thousands of years, and many scientists and researchers have dedicated their lives to furthering our collective knowledge of space and the universe.

Most people are familiar with Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity, which became the cornerstone of physics and astronomy. Another well-known scientist was Edwin Hubble, whose discoveries of galaxies moving away from Earth are considered the first observation of the expansion of the universe.

But the massive logarithmic map above, and any observations from Earth or space probes, are limited in nature. The universe is currently dated to be around 13.8 billion years oldand nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light.

When taking into account the expansion of the universe and observed objects moving away from us, this means that the farthest we can “see” is currently calculated at approximately 47.7 billion light years. And because light takes time to travel, much of what we observe actually happened millions of years ago.

But our understanding of the universe is constantly evolving with new discoveries. What will we discover next?

This article was published as part of Visual Capitalist’s Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite creators from around the world.