The universe is no small place, but even 10 years seems like a long time for anyone to take to create a map of it.
However, that's exactly how long a team of astronomers took in creating 2MASS Redshift Survey, a map of the universe. The result of the 10 laborious years is what they call the most complete 3-D map of the local universe (out to a distance of 380 million light-years) ever created. 2MASS Redshift Survey extends closer to the Galactic plane unlike any other map of the universe before it. The region is generally obscured by dust.
The 2MASS Redshift Survey is a wonderfully complete new look at the local universe -- particularly near the Galactic plane, Karen Masters, a professor at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., said.
The astronomers used images made by the Two-Micron All-SkySurvey (2MASS) to create the map. The researchers scanned the entire sky in three near-infrared wavelength bands. This near-infrared light penetrates intervening dust better than visible light, allowing them to see more of the sky. Huchra played a significant role in scanning certain legacy maps with this method.
The map reveals an area hidden behind the Milky Way Galaxy, which may have an impact on its motion. Researchers say the motion of the Milky Way Galaxy has been out of sync -- the masses of the galaxies and matter around it can't explain why it is moving as fast as it is. This map could help researchers better understand it.
The team behind the map presented it at the 218th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. They honored John Huchra, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who Masters called the guiding force behind this map and earlier galaxy redshift surveys.
John loved doing redshift surveys and he loved the infrared. He had the insight to tell when infrared technology, formerly the province of the experts, was ripe for routine use in a big project, Robert Kirshner, Huchra's colleague at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA), said.
The map was created by astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), which is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory.