It can be a challenge to grasp the sheer scope of the universe, but thanks to this captivating logarithmic visual by artist Pablo Carlos Budassi, you might find it easier to wrap your head around such an enormous scale. Viewing data through a logarithmic lens allows scientists to conceptualize and analyze massive numbers — in this case, the variation of sizes and distances between celestial objects.
As Kelly Dickerson writes for Tech Insider, "Rather than showing all parts of the universe on a linear scale, each chunk of the circle represents a field of view several orders of magnitude larger than the one before it. That's why the entire observable universe can fit inside the circle."
Starting from the center of the image, we first see the familiar faces of our solar system — the sun, the planets, the various orbital belts — before moving on through the vast, icy Oort cloud. From there, we venture past other star systems, like Alpha Centauri, until we zoom out far enough to find ourselves in the Milky Way's Perseus Arm. By the time we transition to a scale that's on par with the entirety of the Milky Way, other far-off galaxies become more visible to us, including our closest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy.
As the logarithmic scale continues, these brilliant galaxies appear to shrink in size, giving way to a larger structure that scientists call the "Cosmic Web." At the very edge of the illustration, we catch a glimpse of the universe's vast field of cosmic microwave radiation and, finally, the thin rim of invisible plasma produced by the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago.
It's important to point out that while Budassi's logarithmic visual is both aesthetically compelling and undeniably insightful, it's not as accurate as an actual logarithmic map of the universe (such as this one compiled by researchers at Princeton). Even so, images like this are valuable educational tools that put our existence into perspective.
The image is actually an expanded version of another visual by Budassi that focused on just our local region in the universe — beginning with our solar system and ending with the galaxies in our immediate vicinity:
Budassi came up with the idea of creating these logarithmic visuals of the universe while crafting hexaflexagons for his son's birthday party.
As he explained in the Tech Insider interview, "when I was drawing hexaflexagons for my son's birthday souvenirs, I started drawing central views of the cosmos and the solar system. That day the idea of a logarithmic view came and in the next days, I was able to [assemble] it with photoshop using images from NASA and some textures created by my own."