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Cosmic mapmakers to rendezvous in Chicago Dec. 3-6
Meeting stretches Chicago map festival to limits of universe

Nov. 30, 2007

Astronomers and astrophysicists make maps of the sky-pervading radiation left behind by the big bang. They make maps of stars and galaxies. And they make maps of the brightest objects in the sky, including gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful explosions in the universe.

Usually these scientists attend conferences on topics that tightly focus on their areas of special interest. Nevertheless, the Chicago Festival of Maps provided the inspiration to bring more than 100 of them here together from Dec. 3 to 6 to share their ideas under the umbrella of a larger theme: Cosmic Cartography, Mapping the Universe from the Big Bang to the Present. The meeting is sponsored by the University of Chicago’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics and the Chicago Festival of Maps.

“This conference is somewhat out of the ordinary,” said conference co-organizer Stephan Meyer, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. “We’re concentrating on a piece of astrophysics that is common to almost all the new measurements that get made.”

Each day of the conference will be devoted to different aspects of cosmic mapping:

  • Day One, Mapping the Largest Structures. These structures encompass the entire scale of the visible universe. They include the cosmic web of galaxies that trace structure in the universe and phenomena such as the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is the radiation left over from the big bang. The big bang radiation can be mapped, revealing important information about the beginnings of the universe.
  • Day Two, Mapping Local Structures. By astronomical standards, “local” means objects that measure thousands of light years across. “This is the study of our galaxy and the enormous amount that we’ve learned by mapping where the stars are, how fast they’re moving and what kinds of stars they are,” said Meyer, who also is Associate Director of the Kavli Institute.
  • Day Three, Mapping the Largest Sources. “The largest individual objects known in the universe are clusters of galaxies, which emit strongly over a broad range of wavelengths, from X-rays to radio waves,” said conference co-organizer Michael Gladders, Assistant Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
  • Day Four, Maps of the Future. On this final day of the meeting, scientists will discuss recently launched cosmic mapping projects and those now in the planning stages. “The final day is going to bring together some speakers with an audience that may not normally speak to each other,” Gladders said. “The sequence of presentations is aimed at large-scale survey or mapping projects that have quite a broad science thrust.”

For more information about the Cosmic Cartography meeting, see Journalists are welcome to attend the meeting, but should first contact Steve Koppes, 773-702-8366,

In addition to Cosmic Cartography, A Cosmology Short Course for Museum and Planetarium Staff will be offered from Dec. 7 to 9. More than 30 museum and planetarium professionals will attend. For more information, see There also will be a free, public event associated with Cosmic Cartography on Dec. 5. For details, see

For more information about the Chicago Festival of Maps, see

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Last modified at 11:46 AM CST on Friday, November 30, 2007

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