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.
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.
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.