Infographics, or information graphics, is currently a very popular design area. Combining graphic design and illustration with hard facts and information is a powerful way to visualise data to help engage the masses.
My interest in the cosmos is deep-rooted and actually slightly borders on obsession! I’m also very keen on infographics. With these topics firmly in-mind, I have done some lengthy research and can now present a collection which expressively combines the two subjects.
The collection contains some popular pieces which have been doing the rounds online, but there may be a few here that are fresh to your eyes. It’s also nice to have them all in one place. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do :)
Similarly to a gyroscope, the earth slowly wobbles on it’s axis over a long period of time – 26,000 years to be more specific. Amazingly, some ancient civilisations, such as the Egyptians were able to observe and record these subtle movements. This piece by serial cosmological infographic creator Michael Paukner, illustrates the movements of precession and correlates key dates in history.
5 Notable Exoplanets
Exoplanets are planets outside of our own solar system. Scientists are trying to locate planets which lie within the ‘habitable zone’ – meaning just the right distance from their star in order to sustain liquid water. It is widely believed that water is the fundamental factor for life to begin, so these planets are the most likely to have life on them. This infographic clearly visualises how many discoveries have already been made in the relatively short time the field of ‘planet hunting’ has been around. The recent discovery of super-Earth like planets such as Gliese 581 d have captured the imagination of many.
50 Years of Space Exploration
This is one of, if not the most famous infographic about the cosmos and it’s not hard to see why. The sheer amount our civilisation has discovered about our solar system and the universe is nothing short of staggering. What this infographic does is put into perspective all the human endeavours over the last 50 years: a tiny fraction of an amount of time considering the scale of human, and indeed Earth’s, history. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you check this out in it’s entirety, it’s a beautiful piece of design.
Another piece by Michael Paukner this time illustrating the fascinating phenomenon of solar eclipse events. The reason we get these amazing events is down to the fact that the Sun’s distance from the Earth and the Moon’s diameter are very similar. This is all down to chance and in the far future, at least 600 million years, this will not happen as the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth.
Missions to Mars
It goes without saying that Mars has been the most closely examined planet in the solar system. This infographic shows just how many times we have managed to venture there to try and uncover more about it’s intriguing mysteries. It also instantly shows that there have been more failed missions than successful ones – a stark reminder to just how difficult space exploration is.
The Observable Universe
This hand-drawn illustration is a light-hearted visualisation of the observable universe. It’s a fairly long diagram, so worth a look at the original post.
Since the first artificial satellite Sputnik was launched into orbit in 1957, the human race has delivered countless other satellites into space. Aside from the scientific applications, many of these satellites enable the day-to-day technologies we rely on, such as sat-nav, mobile communication, and television. This lovely infographic by Michael Paukner offers a visual account of not only the satellites in current operation, but also the dysfunctional ones and amassed space junk orbiting our planet.
The sheer scale of planetary masses is shown here in an easy to understand way. The first thing you notice is the incredible mass of our Sun compared to that of the Earth. It’s worth remembering that there are stars out there in the universe which are sometimes many times the mass of our Sun, mind boggling stuff to say the least.
The Orion-Pyramid Correlation
This simple infographic demonstrates a controversial theory that the ancient Egyptians built the great Pyramids of Giza to match the three stars in Orion’s Belt. This theory caught my attention back in 1998 when Graham Hancock produced a Channel 4 series called ‘Quest for the Lost Civilisation’ which was based on his book ‘Heaven’s Mirror’. While a fascinating theory, Hancock has been heavily criticised and many of the ideas were challenged, most notably in the BBC Horizon programme ‘Atlantis Reborn’ which aired in 1999.
National Geographic Universe
This in-depth National Geographic infographic does a great job of visualising the universe as far as we currently understand it. It details our Galaxy’s place in the known cosmos and goes a long way to exemplify the awesome vastness of the Universe. To fully appreciate this piece, it is worth checking out the large format version linked below.
How Big is The Universe
This infographic contains some useful info regarding astronomical distances and aims to answer the question: ‘How big is the universe?’
This collection’s final piece from Michael Paukner is a beautiful illustration showing the orbit of ‘Planet X’ also known as Niburu.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
This infographic by Thomas Fogarasy visualises technical information about The Electromagnetic Spectrum.
Evolution of Quasars
Although in a different vein to the majority of the infographics in this collection, I felt the need to include this as it is so beautiful. It’s well worth watching the animations from this model, the significance of what is being represented is mind-blowing.
Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two
Virgin’s ambitious venture to make visiting space for ‘the rest of us’ a real possibility is certainly the stuff of dreams. Although not directly produced by Virgin Galactic, this infographic is a nice overview of the SpaceShipTwo craft – which is the final production model due to start taking civilians into space in 2012. I don’t know about you, but reading phrases like; Sub-orbital, Future Astronaut, Space Ports, and Accredited Space Agents really really excites me! If only I had a spare $200,000 dollars for a ticket :(
If you are interested in how the possibility of sub-orbital space travel came to be, I recommend checking out a BBC Horizon programme called Space Tourists aired in 2006. It documents how the winner of the X Prize went on to develop SpaceShipOne. There are also some videos on the Virgin Galactic website.
This is a poster from a series titled ‘Under the Milky Way’ by Ross Berens. They are not strictly infographics, but certainly noteworthy and worth a look. The collection is also available to buy, both individually and as a set.
Milky Way Transit Authority
An intergalactic tube map by Samuel Arbesman is a really great attempt at mapping our galaxy, The Milky Way, in a colourful and diagrammatic way. The map is a really nice piece of work and considering the accuracy of the included information, it must have taken a great deal of time to produce. Amazing job.
Deathstar vs. The Force
Just for fun, this clever piece by Matt Buchanan visualises the ‘power of the force’ in comparison to the Death Star’s ‘ability to destroy a planet’. Die hard Star Wars fans should love this!
Bonus Video: The Known Universe
There are so many great videos out there that can really get you thinking about the cosmos, but this one is especially poignant. It shows the known universe as mapped through astronomical observations. Everything is shown to scale according to the best scientific research to-date. Simply amazing.