Zoomer Applet

Zoomer is a modest attempt to show earth's place in the universe. Slide the scrollbar to zoom in and out, or use the buttons for smooth, continuous zooming.

Zoomer displays the following objects:

Zoomer is intended mainly to show the relative distances from earth to various astronomical objects. This two-dimensional "cartoon" view does not attempt to correctly depict the objects themselves or their relations to each other in three-dimensional space. Stars, galaxies, and quasars are plotted according to their approximate distances and right ascensions (longitudes) in our sky, ignoring their declinations (latitudes). No attempt has been made to show the detailed structure of the Milky Way or of the large-scale distribution of galaxies and quasars. Please explore the links on this page to view images of the various objects and to learn more about them.

The scale displayed by Zoomer is calibrated in units of time--the time for light to travel the indicated distance. At cosmological scales the relation between time and distance becomes complex and confusing, due to the expansion of the universe and the need to distinguish between the present distance and the distance when the light was emitted. By using a scale of "lookback time" rather than distance, Zoomer tries to avoid these complications.

Zoomer was inspired by Powers of Ten, a short film and related book that zoom in and out on the universe. Zoomer, however, is limited to astronomical length scales--from the earth on up. Here are some links to other web sites and resources that complement Zoomer in various ways: