One of the greatest moments in the animated series Futuruma comes in "Godfellas" when Bender is sailing through the universe with no way of stopping his flight. That's basically what the Sloan Digital Sky Survey allows you to do: travel three-dimensionally billions of light years. Five terabytes of data hold 217 million individual objects, including 800,000 galaxies. Hop onto the sarcastic metal starship and see the universe as you were meant to, including a gallery of our favorite watering-holes, after the jump.
With astronomers still using sky surveys from the 1950s, it was obvious they needed a new approach to mapping the universe. Eight years ago, the Sloane Survey became that new approach. "Nobody's ever done anything like this before," administrator Bruce Gillespie told the Los Angeles Times. "They'll still be looking at this data in 50 years."
The Survey's Sky Server allows you to explore the universe in multiple ways, focusing on the 2 billion light-years closest to Earth. If you know what you're doing, you can even search particular stretches of the universe. The big challenge in mapping the universe is to determine the distance between objects, and to do that, researchers used aluminum plates drilled with holes to represent where stars and galaxies were. The survey has already told us about the existence of dark energy, and the three dimensional model shows what's not readily apparent from the night sky: namely, that galaxies are clearly gathered into clusters. We're also fascinated by the Great Wall in space, which spans 1 billion light years and has over six million gift shops.
As Bender so aptly put it: "First I was God, then I met God." Here's a gallery to let you have the Bender experience yourself. Just remember to drop acid before viewing.
The Survey's Website [Sloane Digital Sky Survey]