3D starmaps

I have entered the coordinates (with a hefty uncertainty in distance in most cases) for a number of nebulae and clusters, and then plotted them in galactic coordinates.

Oct 17: I have created a simple applet to display some of the data interactively.

Maps of the Orion Arm

Oct 13: Here is a series of maps zooming in on the vicinity of Sol in the Orion Arm. The bluegreen circles mark 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 1000, 200, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 10,000 lightyears from the sun.

20,000 ly - the large structure of the arm and the neighboring Perseus arm (left) and Sagittarius arm (right) can be seen. Eta Carina is near the lower middle border.

10,000 ly

5000 ly

2000 ly - with stars of absolute magnitude below -2 (from the Yale Bright Stars Catalog).

1000 ly

50 ly - The core of the Inner Sphere. See the Orion's Arm project for descriptions.

Yale bright stars seen along the galactic plane from 5000 ly away. Notice the diagonal band, Gould's Belt. 

Political maps of the Orion setting

These maps corresponds to slices of the galactic plane, separated by planes 200 ly apart. The distance of the camera from Sol is 5000 ly.

Old Stuff

These maps use older versions of the catalogs, with some duplications and mistakes. Especially mistaken was the size of the nebulae, where I have now updated the formula to a more conservative estimate.

Galactic Maps

The red axis points towards the galactic center to the right, the green points up from the galactic plane. The bluegreen circles mark 100, 1000 and 10,000 lightyears from the sun. This map only uses the brightest stars, mainly as markers. If things look too dark it may be the browser or screen settings, try saving the pictures and view them in another program.

As we zoom in we can see the Orion arm in the center, with faint hints of the Perseus arm to the left and the Sagittarius arm to the right. Especially notable is the big complex of clouds linked with the Orion nebula/Barnard's loop, and the big but loose stellar associations close to the sun.

For more information about the objects, see SEDS.

Povray source code for these pictures. Ideally this should be a VRML model or some other interactive system in order to make it easy to see where everything is in relation to everything else.

30 June: I found a nice database of clusters at HEASARC, which I incorporated. Some maps, as above but with the new objects:

There are some duplicates which have to be removed later.

When you plot only the open clusters, the stellar arms become visible (with some imagination): 40000 ly view. The Orion arm is at the center, extending upwards and downwards with a ~30 degree slant. To the right, below the red axis part of the Sagittarius arm can be seen (the upper right quadrant is largely obscured by dust). To the left in the upper quadrant the Perseus arm can be seen.

Simple Maps of the Solar Neighbourhood

I used Mizar's list of the brightest stars, and plotted them in PovRay. Stars and axes are one lightyear in radius.

The scene seen from 1000 lightyears away
The scene seen from 500 lightyears away
The scene seen from 250 lightyears away
The scene seen from 100 lightyears away

The PoV code

I also tested using the Yale Bright Star map, which resulted in the following view from 500 ly away (only stars closer than 300 ly have names; they are slightly offset due to the naming format). Source code.

This is of course not a very good visualisation, but shows at least some of the distribution of notable stars. See Nyrath's pages for much more information and data that can be used.


This project was inspired by/part of the Orion's Arm project.

The structure of the spiral arms. Course notes from University of Northern Iowa. Contains a nice map of the distribution of open clusters.

3d-Mapping of the Local Interstellar Medium

The Disk of the Milky Way

Nyrath's 3D Starmaps

The Milky Way in different wavelengths.