The Digital Universe
28 May 2004In the late 1990's, the American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium embarked on the Digital Galaxy Project, the goal of which was to build the most accurate Milky Way Galaxy that had ever been built based on astronomical observations. Among the many catalogues included in the Digital Galaxy are the Hipparcos Catalogue and the Tycho 2 Catalogue. After a few years the project expanded to consider objects beyond the Milky Way and it is now known as the Digital Universe.
The Hayden Planetarium has made the Digital Universe available for free to individuals via the internet. By simply downloading the free software Partiview and the accompanying atlases a trip through three-dimensional space is available to anyone. (Partiview is an interactive visualization software developed by Stuart Levy and the Virtual Director Group at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. The software is available for Windows, Mac OSX, Linux and IRIX platforms.)
The image above is extracted from Partiview and shows a view from Earth towards Orion. Stars with planetary systems are indicated by a blue circle. Partiview allows users to "fly" through the Galaxy and to view the objects from any perspective.
For more information about the scientific and technological advances that led to the creation of the Digital Universe atlas at the American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium see the online article on Virtual Universe from Natural History Magazine.