With all that’s going on in the world, it’s easy to forget that we humans only occupy a tiny, tiny dot within the universe.
Our planet is the third in a string of eight that revolve around our sun. Our solar system is at the edge of a galaxy called the Milky Way. This galaxy is about 100,000 light years across, or 9.5 x 1017 kilometers (5.9 x 1017 miles). Astronomers estimate that there are 100 billion to 200 billion galaxies in our universe.
It’s possible to see part of the Milky Way from earth in areas where there’s not a lot of light pollution from cities interfering with the clear night sky. Rogelio Bernal Andreo, a Spanish-American astrophotographer, captured 108 panoramic images of our galaxy to create an interactive, 3D interactive map of it, found here and embedded above.
Andreo started out as a software engineer and started taking pictures of the night sky as a hobby. “Back in 2007, one night driving down south of Big Sur in California, my wife noticed a sky packed with stars,” he says. “I stopped, and we became in awe immediately, seeing the Milky Way for the first time in our lives under such amazing dark sky.”
Andreo has won numerous awards for his photography, including the 2011 amateur award from the Astronomical Association of Northern California. The same year, he was inducted into the hall of fame for the Santa Barbara Instrument Group, which promotes scientific photography. He was the first amateur photographer to win Discover Magazine’s Best Astronomy picture in 2010, and his work has been featured as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day 40 times.
A gallery of his work is in San Francisco, California.
An earlier version of this post misstated one of Andreo’s photography prizes.