XIII.1 The Cosmic Web

Kim Albrecht

Albert-László Barabási

The concept of the cosmic web—viewing the universe as a set of discrete galaxies held together by gravity—is deeply ingrained in cosmology. Yet, little is known about the architecture of this network or its characteristics. Visual researcher and information designer Kim Albrecht worked with Albert-László Barabási, of Northeastern University’s Center for Complex Network Research, and a team of astronomers to construct multiple models of the cosmic web. The project team used data from 24,000 galaxies to offer blueprints for how galaxies fit together. The resulting interactive visualizations helped the team imagine the cosmic web, showed them differences between the models, and provided insight into the fundamental structure of the universe.

Immerse yourself in a network of 24,000 galaxies with more than 100,000 connections. By selecting a model, panning and zooming, and filtering the data, you can compare three distinct models of the cosmic web.

The visualizations and accompanying information about The Cosmic Web can be found at http://cosmicweb.barabasilab.com.


Coutinho, Bruno C., Sungryong Hong, Kim Albrecht, Arjun Dey, Albert-László Barabási, Paul Torrey, Mark Vogelsberger, and Lars Hernquist. 2016. “The Network Behind the Cosmic Web.” Accessed July 10, 2017. https://arxiv.org/abs/1604.03236.

Albrecht, Kim and Albert-László Barabási. 2016. The Network Behind the Cosmic Web. Courtesy of the Center for Complex Research, Northeastern University. In “13th Iteration (2017): Macroscopes for Playing with Scale, Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Lisel Record. http://scimaps.org.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.