Why is the Universe shaped like a bow tie?


The image of the universe as a bowtie is misleading. The Milky Way is at the center of this bowtie, and the "missing data" is in line with the plane of our galaxy. We cannot observe these areas because there are too many stars and too much gas and dust obscuring our field of view. This creates the bowtie shape.

The SDSS data in the 3D view have an hourglass shape because galaxies in the plane of our own Milky Way were excluded from observation - too much "gunk," or gas and dust, in the way. If you orient the SDSS galaxies, so it looks like an hourglass, you can then zoom back in and show how the missing wedges align with the plane of the Milky Way. This is not what the universe looks like; it simply represents where we were most easily able to take the data to create the map.

One side of the "bow tie" looks more populated than the other because it is easier for the SDSS telescope to observe in that direction from its location in New Mexico.