A Map of the Biggest Here

The Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York’s Central Park West features the Hayden Planetarium, a unique building designed to display amazing interstellar content.


Opened to the public on Feburary 19, 2000, the Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space is an extensive update of the old Hayden Planetarium, which dated back to 1935. The $210 million, 335,000-square foot building, designed by James Polshek, features a seven-story-tall glass cube that encloses the iconic 87-foot-diameter Hayden Sphere.

It’s a huge structure, but what is really big is what’s displayed inside – a three-dimensional atlas of the universe and tour through charted space. Seated below the massive screen, the digital journey begins with an amazingly detailed orbital view of the planet Earth. Guided by my friend Carter Emmart at the controls, you slowly begin to pull back away from home. The latest datasets from researchers all over the world are loaded into the system and accurately mapped. As you pull back out of our solar system, the distances are rendered as you would see them – if you could somehow travel untold light years per hour with a window seat. Constellations are stretched beyond recognition as you visit familiar star clusters, occasionally looking back at home, a point of light impossible to discern among the countless others until Carter turns on the waypoint marker.

It’s an almost dizzying journey through the known universe, and an excellent way to get a little perspective on what’s really out there – and how big it is. If you’re ever in New York, it’s definitely worth a visit for the longest journey one can do while seated.

The academic arm of the Hayden Planetarium also publishes a desktop version of the Digital Universe Atlas, which looks very cool (but I have not tried).

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