The Largest Ever 3D Map of the Universe

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Watch the universe unfold ... in 1.5 minutes.

The Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico features, among other things, a 2.5-meter wide-angle optical telescope. That telescope captures images using drift scanning, or time-delay integration -- which makes use of the Earth's rotation to record single strips of sky.

Since 2000, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has been making use of Apache Point's telescope to survey the universe, generating data that account for some 7 billion years' worth of cosmic movement.

This week, SDSS released its latest round of cosmic cartography, officially titled "Data Release 9" but more accurately referred to as whoa, the largest ever 3D map of the universe. The map includes the data gathered from the first two years of the survey's six-year space odyssey. And it comes in the form, as its unofficial title suggests, of a three-dimensional map of the cosmos -- the largest one ever released. The astronomic atlas, depicted in the video above, sweeps over the universe, over swirling galaxies and black holes. It will, Sloan researchers say, eventually measure the positions of 1.5 million galaxies.

Again: 1.5 million galaxies

[Ed. note: I want this video to play on the insides of my eyelids every night when I go to sleep.]

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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