The Celestial Zoo: A Map of 200+ Objects in our Universe
Humans have been observing the universe for thousands of years.
And while we haven’t figured out all the answers quite yet, we’ve made some remarkable discoveries when it comes to learning about outer space.
What are some of the most notable observations that scientists have discovered so far? This map of outer space by Pablo Carlos Budassi highlights more than 200 celestial objects in our universe and provides details and facts about each one.
The Types of Celestial Objects Mapped
To create this graphic, Budassi used a combination of logarithmic astronomical maps from Princeton University, as well as images from NASA.
The visualization highlights 216 different celestial objects that are color-coded and organized into five overarching categories:
- Moons and Asteroids
- Star System
- Great Scales/Superclusters
At the center of the map is the Sun, which is the largest object in our Solar System. According to NASA, the Sun’s volume is equivalent to 1.3 million Earths. The Sun is the powerhouse of life here on Earth—its energy provides our planet with a mild, warm climate that keeps us alive, keeping the Earth from becoming a frozen rock.
While the Sun is the only star in the Solar System, there is a neighboring star system called Alpha Centauri that’s approximately 4.37 light-years away. It’s made up of three stars—Proxima Centauri, Alpha Centauri A, and Alpha Centauri B.
Proxima Centauri, as the Latin name indicates, is the closest of the three to Earth and has an Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone.
The Life of a Star
In a star’s early stages, it’s powered by hydrogen. However, when its hydrogen stores are depleted, some stars are able to fuse helium or even heavier elements.
Stars similar to the size of the Sun will grow, cool down, and eventually transform into a red giant. The Sun has about 5,000 million more years before it reaches its red giant stage, but when that happens, it will likely expand to the point where it swallows up the Earth.
While stars emit energy for years, it’s important to note that they don’t shine for eternity. Their exact life span depends on their size, with bigger stars burning out faster than their smaller counterparts.
But as light from distant objects millions of light-years away takes a long time to reach us here on Earth, the largest of stars shine for hundreds of millions of years after they die.
Just How Big is Our Universe?
Some experts believe that the universe is infinite, while others argue that we can’t yet know for certain because current measurements aren’t accurate enough.
However, scientists believe that our observable universe extends about 46 billion light-years in every direction, giving it a diameter of roughly 93 billion light-years.
But just how much of the universe extends beyond what we can see? We may never find out.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
All of the World’s Spaceports on One Map
This map is a comprehensive look at both existing and proposed spaceports and missile launching locations around the world.
Mapped: The World’s Rocket Launch Sites
From Sputnik 1 to today’s massive satellite constellations, every object in space was launched from just a handful of locations.
The map above, from BryceTech, is a comprehensive look at the world’s spaceports (both orbital and sub-orbital) as well as ballistic missile test sites.
The World’s Major Spaceports
Though the graphic above is a detailed list of many types of rocket launch sites, we’ll focus on major sites that are sending satellites and passengers into sub-orbit, orbit, and beyond.
|Cape Canaveral Space Force Station||Florida||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Cape Canaveral Spaceport||Florida||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Kennedy Space Center||Florida||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Cecil Field Spaceport||Florida||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Colorado Air & Space Port||Colorado||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Vandenberg Air Force Base||California||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Mojave Air and Space Port||California||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Oklahoma Air & Space Port||Oklahoma||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Poker Flat Research Range||Alaska||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Pacific Spaceport Complex||Alaska||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Spaceport America||New Mexico||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Launch Site One (Corn Ranch)||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Houston Spaceport||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Midland Air & Space Port||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|SpaceX Development and Test Facility||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|SpaceX Starbase||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Spaceport Camden||Georgia||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport||Virginia||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Wallops Flight Facility||Virginia||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Reagan Test Site||Kwajalein Atoll||🇲🇭 Marshall Islands|
|Naro Space Center||Outer Naro Island||🇰🇷 South Korea|
|Sohae Satellite Launching Station||North Pyongan Province||🇰🇵 North Korea|
|Kapustin Yar||Astrakhan Oblast||🇷🇺 Russia|
|Plesetsk Cosmodrome||Arkhangelsk Oblast||🇷🇺 Russia|
|Vostochny Cosmodrome||Amur Oblast||🇷🇺 Russia|
|Yasny Launch Base||Orenburg Oblast||🇷🇺 Russia|
|Arnhem Space Centre||Northern Territory||🇦🇺 Australia|
|Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex||South Australia||🇦🇺 Australia|
|Koonibba Test Range||South Australia||🇦🇺 Australia|
|Bowen Orbital Spaceport||Queensland||🇦🇺 Australia|
|Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1||Wairoa District||🇳🇿 New Zealand|
|Baikonur Cosmodrome||Baikonur||🇰🇿 Kazakhstan|
|Space Port Oita||Ōita||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Tanegashima Space Center||Kagoshima||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Uchinoura Space Center||Kagoshima||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Taiki Aerospace Research Field||Hokkaido||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Hokkaido Spaceport||Hokkaido||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Ryori Launch Site||Iwate||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Sonmiani Satellite Launch Center||Balochistan||🇵🇰 Pakistan|
|Integrated Test Range||Odisha||🇮🇳 India|
|Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station||Kerala||🇮🇳 India|
|Satish Dhawan Space Centre||Sriharikota||🇮🇳 India|
|Guiana Space Centre||Kourou||🇬🇫 French Guiana|
|Barreira do Inferno Launch Center||Rio Grande do Norte||🇧🇷 Brazil|
|Alcântara Space Center||Maranhão||🇧🇷 Brazil|
|Stasiun Peluncuran Roket||West Java||🇮🇩 Indonesia|
|Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center||Gansu Province||🇨🇳 China|
|Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center||Shanxi Province||🇨🇳 China|
|Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site||Hainan Province||🇨🇳 China|
|Xichang Satellite Launch Center||Sichuan Province||🇨🇳 China|
|Palmachim Airbase||Central District||🇮🇱 Israel|
|Imam Khomeini Space Launch Terminal||Semnan||🇮🇷 Iran|
|Qom Lauch Facility||Qom||🇮🇷 Iran|
|El Arenosillo Test Centre||Huelva||🇪🇸 Spain|
|Spaceport Sweden||Lapland||🇸🇪 Sweden|
|Esrange Space Center||Lapland||🇸🇪 Sweden|
|Andøya Space||Nordland||🇳🇴 Norway|
|SaxaVord Spaceport||Shetland Islands||🇬🇧 UK|
|Sutherland Spaceport||Sutherland||🇬🇧 UK|
|Western Isles Spaceport||Outer Hebrides||🇬🇧 UK|
|Spaceport Machrihanish||Campbeltown||🇬🇧 UK|
|Prestwick Spaceport||Glasgow||🇬🇧 UK|
|Snowdonia Spaceport||North West Wales||🇬🇧 UK|
|Spaceport Cornwall||Cornwall||🇬🇧 UK|
|Orbex LP1||Moray||🇬🇧 UK|
|Spaceport Nova Scotia||Nova Scotia||🇨🇦 Canada|
Editor’s note: The above table includes all sites that are operational, as well as under construction, as of publishing date.
The list above covers fixed locations, and does not include SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships. There are currently three active drone ships—one based near Los Angeles, and the other two based at Port Canaveral, Florida.
Two of the most famous launch sites on the list are the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) and Cape Canaveral (United States). The former was constructed as the base of operations for the Soviet space program and was the launch point for Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. The latter was NASA’s primary base of operations and the first lunar-landing flight was launched from there in 1969.
The global roster of spaceports has grown immensely since Baikonur and Cape Canaveral were the only game in town. Now numerous countries have the ability to launch satellites, and many more are getting in on the action.
Wenchang Space Launch Site, on the island of Hainan, is China’s newest launch location. The site recorded its first successful launch in 2016.
One interesting quirk of the map above is the lack of spaceports in Europe. Europe’s ambitions for space are actually launched from the Guiana Space Centre in South America. Europe’s Spaceport has been operating in French Guiana since 1968.
Low altitude launch locations near the equator are the most desirable, as far less energy is required to take a spacecraft from surface level to an equatorial, geostationary orbit.
Islands and coastal areas are also common locations for launch sites. Since the open waters aren’t inhabited, there is minimal risk of harm from debris in the event of a launch failure.
As demand for satellites and space exploration grows, the number of launch locations will continue to grow as well.
Animated Map: Where to Find Water on Mars
This new planet-wide animated map, based on a decade of space agency research, shows where water can be found on Mars.
Animation: New Water Map of Mars
The hunt for water on Mars has always been a point of interest for researchers.
Earth has life almost everywhere water exists. Water is an ideal target for finding lifeforms, like microbes, that may exist on other planets.
And if Mars is to become a future home, knowing where water exists will be necessary for our survival.
Both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have special instruments searching for water on the red planet. After 10 years of in-depth investigation, their latest findings suggest a new “water map” for Mars.
Where Did the Water Go?
Many people know Mars as a dry and dusty planet, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Approximately 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago, Mars had a massive ocean called Oceanus Borealis. It dominated the northern hemisphere of the planet. Specific planetary conditions at that time let water exist on its surface. Changes in temperature, climate, and geology over the years gradually pushed water out to the atmosphere or into the ground.
Up to 99% of this ocean water is trapped within the planet’s crust, locked within special rocks called hydrous minerals.
Hydrous minerals are essentially rocks that have water (or its two main elements, hydrogen and oxygen), incorporated into their chemical structure.
There are four main classes of hydrous minerals: silicates, sulfates, silicas, and carbonates. While these minerals look pretty similar to the naked eye, their chemical compositions and structural arrangements vary. They are detectable by sophisticated equipment and can tell scientists how water geologically changes over time.
The new water map of Mars actually highlights the location of these hydrous minerals. It is a geological map of the rocks that are holding what remains of Mars’s ancient ocean.
Other Sources of Water on Mars
Despite being a “graveyard” for the bulk of the planet’s ocean, hydrous minerals are not the only source of water on Mars.
Water ice is present at both of Mars’s poles. The northern polar ice cap contains the only visible water on the planet, while the southern pole covers its water with a frozen carbon-dioxide cap.
In 2020, radar analyses suggested the presence of liquid water, potentially part of a network of underground saltwater lakes, close to the southern pole. In 2022, new evidence for this liquid water suggested that the planet may still be geothermally active.
More frozen water may be locked away in the deep subsurface, far below what current surveying equipment is able to inspect.
Mapping Out the Next Missions
The new water map is highlighting areas of interest for future exploration on Mars.
There is a small chance that hydrous minerals may be actively forming near water sources. Finding where they co-exist with known areas of buried frozen water provides possible opportunities for extracting water.
ESA’s Rosalind Franklin Rover will land in Oxia Planum, a region rich in hydrous clays, to investigate how water shaped the region and whether life once began on Mars.
Many more investigations and studies are developing, but for now, scientists are just getting their toes wet as they explore what hydrous minerals can tell us of Mars’s watery past.
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