Google’s New Map of the Milky Way

We all know that the Milky Way is a big place, but getting your head around just how vast our home galaxy is can sometimes be a bit difficult, mind-bending even. Until recently, the best way to consider the vastness of the cosmos was to imagine a thousand nanobots dancing on the head of a pin, hold that pin up to the moon on a clear night, and listen to Carl Sagan’s “pale blue dot” speech while sitting in a bath full of warm marbles. Fortunately, we now have advanced computer models to help us comprehend the incomprehensible, and we can simply sit in a bath full of warm internet instead.

Google have released a new interactive 3D model of the galaxy, and it features no less than 100,000 individual stars. It’s a thing of beauty.

galaxy_google_Layer 1

The map isn’t entirely accurate though, as the real galaxy is thought to contain something in the region of 100 billion stars (that’s 100,000,000,000), but let’s not be finicky.

The ‘100,000 stars experiment‘ isn’t just about ogling at the scale of the heavens though, it actually has a useful purpose for us sci-fi writers. Zoom in and you will find an accurate representation of the stars that surround us, with prominent stars in the Local Group marked on the map.local_group_google_Layer 1

If you’re considering writing about a journey to one of our neighbouring stars, or if you’re worldbuilding humanity’s future star empire, this is a very handy resource. Unfortunately, there are only something in the region of 60 named star systems on the map, but good star charts are hard to come by, and the 3D nature of this model makes it particularly illuminating.

You can explore Google’s ‘100,000 Stars’ map at stars.chromeexperiments.com. Enjoy, and I hope you find this resource useful.

Do you know of a better star chart than this? Why not share it in the comments below and add realism to their fictional galaxies.

  • Jeff Darling

    Actually, one hundred billion is 100,000,000,000. What you showed was one hundred million. Great to find out about this though.

    • Oops. Sorry about that.
      Fixed. Thanks for letting me know.

  • John H Reiher Jr

    It’s OK, but it doesn’t allow you to build connection between stars nor does it show known stellar structures around a star or any known planets. A better set of information is the 3-D Starmaps collection at Project Rho:

    http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/starmaps/

    The star catalogues can inputted into a spreadsheet and from there you can use the data to build a map of known stars for your work.

    • Kirov

      I’ve been using Project Rho catalogues for my world-building as well. I actually just ordered one of the posters so I can get a better idea of the physical layout. The data that Project Rho has adds is pretty useful. I came across the Google star map, but it found it didn’t provide enough relevant information for me without having to go do research on each individual star myself.

    • Oh yeah, their posters are really good. Thanks John and Kirov.

  • I can recommend “Celestia” and for creating your own 3D star maps Astro Synthesis .You can download star catalogs. enter Ship routes , spheres of influence, create solar systems from scratch and move around in it in a 3D sphere. (for building Systems Universe Sandbox is great)

    • John H Reiher Jr

      I have the Mac version and it’s very nice. I used it once to create a stellar system for the old Terran Trade Authority RPG.

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    That is a great map, but I still prefer Space Engine ( http://en.spaceengine.org/ ).

    • John H Reiher Jr

      Sadly it doesn’t run on a Mac.

      • Thomas Thorne

        I’ve compromised with Celestia. I’ve even learned to import my own assets, but sadly the engine is pretty dated.

  • Kevin

    cool