Looking Out the Starship Window

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey isn’t your father’s planetarium show:

Known as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, it is a remarkable three-dimensional model of the universe that allows an observer to travel, as if by rocket ship, from the dwarf galaxies hugging the skirts of the Milky Way to the frontier campfires of the most distant quasars, blazing billions of light-years away.

In its 5 terabytes of data are 217 million individual objects, including 800,000 galaxies (which themselves contain billions of stars and planets) and 100,000 quasars — creatures once so rare and strange that they weren’t even detected until 1962.