When it comes to sizes and distances at the cosmological scale, we humans have very hard time of comprehending their magnitudes. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise. We’re quite good at judging distances of meters and kilometers because we can experience those (somewhat) easily on daily basis. Although 5,500 km is a bit of an arbitrary number, the moment one assigns it to the distance between London and New York, our mind does the rest. However, with the exception of the 24 brave astronauts who left Earth’s Low Orbit and flew to the Moon, hardly anyone can truly comprehend even the distance of roughly 1.28 light second (or 384,400 km – the semi-major axis of the Moon’s orbit). Pass this tiny number, any guess is just as good as the next.
More than 750,000 have seen this video comparing the size of our Moon and Earth (along other planets and the Sun) to some of the largest stars known. Now, the American Museum of Natural History in partnership with Rubin Museum of Art, created a video showing the known Universe mapped through astronomical observations. Every satellite, moon, planet, start and galaxy is represented to scale and in its correct, measured location according to the best scientific research to-date.
This new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010. The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. The accurate placement of every object seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe – the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History.