Scientist creates intergalactic tube map of the Milky Way

18:31, January 21, 2010      

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Accessible: Samuel Arbesman's map of the Milky Way is based on the London tube map and uses stars and nebula as the 'stations'

If you thought your daily commute was a time-consuming chore, spare a thought for intergalactic space travellers of the future making their way to work on this 'Milky Way Transit Authority'.

Based completely on the London Underground, a Harvard scientist has released this simplified Milky Way map to display the 'vast and complex interconnections' of our galaxy in an accessible way.

But future passengers won't want to get caught up in intergalactic engineering works as the 'stops' on the map, created by Samuel Arbesman, are thousands of light years apart.

Each line on the map corresponds to an arm of the galaxy, and the 'stations' are places in their actual locations, albeit stars, nebula and other astronomical objects.

Mr Arbesman, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, in Boston, Massachusetts, said he tried to make the map as accurate as possible.

He said: 'This map is an attempt to approach our galaxy with a bit more familiarity than usual and get people thinking about long-term possibilities in outer space.

'People ask why I haven't marked "You Are Here" on the map - but I think it's more humbling to realise that we aren't the centre of the universe.

'I did the map to make something that is extremely complex a bit more familiar to people - every stop is about a thousand lights years away.'

He added: 'Hopefully it can provide a useful shorthand for our place in the Milky Way, the important sights and make inconceivable distances a bit less daunting.'

Mr Arbesman describes our place on the map in the Orion Nebula as 'way out in the suburbs, circling the little Sol'.

The inspiration for the schematic representation came after he re-read Carl Sagan's novel 'Contact', which alludes to a cosmic Grand Central Station.

The idea drew him to analyse the first modern subway map, London's Tube map, which was designed by Harry Beck.

CRIEnglish contributes the story

By People's Daily Online

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