The Universe in 3D

by Dominic Ford

Find object

e.g. M87 or NGC884

Magnitude Limit

Only show objects brighter than magnitude


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Additional Information

The Sun is at the large orange dot at the center of this three-dimensional atlas of the Universe.

Initially, the local stars around the Sun are shown, color coded depending whether they are cool red stars or hot blue ones. Gradually the view will zoom out, revealing open clusters of stars in our galaxy (red dots), the whole flat disk of the Milky Way with globular clusters of stars around it (purple dots), and then the Local Group of other galaxies around our own (blue dots).

Once the view zooms out to contain both the Sun and the center of the Milky Way, a white line connects the two, giving a sense of the geometry of the Milky Way.

At any time you can click and drag the simulation to rotate it manually. You can use the slider at the top to manually zoom in and out, or use the scroll-wheel on your mouse. Click on objects to see more information about them.

Selection Effects

The simulation above only shows objects that we are able to observe. This means that it is biased towards showing nearby objects, as these are bright and prominent in the sky.

It may appear that the Sun is at the center of a small spherical swarm of stars, and that open star clusters form a larger swarm, also centered around the Sun.

By contrast, the opposite side of the Milky Way may appear entirely devoid of stars and star clusters. Of course, the whole of the Milky Way is full of stars and clusters, but most of them remain unknown.

So, the simulation not only shows how the objects of the night sky fit into a 3D structure around the Sun, but also the limitations of how far into the Universe we can see.


The positions and distances to stars were taken from the Hipparcos, Tycho, Tycho-2 and Gaia EDR3 catalogs.

The positions of deep sky objects were taken from the NGC2000.0 catalog (Sinnott 1998). Where possible, their distances were taken from the DAML02 database of open clusters (Dias et al. 2002), or from Bill Harris's Catalog of Globular Clusters (Harris 1996). Distances to other objects were determined using queries to NASA Extragalactic Database (NED) based on any available data in the literature.


San Diego



Color scheme