Where in the universe is the Milky Way?

Galaxies are in clusters, and large-scale systems of galaxies, called superclusters, have vague boundaries that are difficult to define (especially from the inside). They are drawn to each other and interconnected in a web of filaments. For the first time, astronomers have constructed a map of the local universe. They’ve named our home supercluster Laniakea. This is Hawaiian for “immeasurable heaven.” The work was published in Nature this week. 

By examining the motions of galaxies, a team of cosmic map makers led by R. Brent Tully from the University of Hawaii charted the distribution of matter in the universe to identify superclusters. A galaxy stuck between two superclusters will be caught in a gravitational tug-of-war. The balance of these forces determines the galaxy’s motion, and measuring the velocity helps define the region of space where each supercluster dominates. With a catalog of 8,000 galaxies' velocities, the team built a galactic distribution map and located the points where cosmic flows -- along which galaxies travel -- diverge.

The Laniakea supercluster is 520 million light-years in diameter and contains the mass of 100 million billion suns within 100,000 galaxies. Its name pays tribute to Polynesian navigators who used knowledge of the heavens to voyage across the Pacific Ocean. 

In the image above, the colors represent density: red for high densities and blue for voids with little matter. Individual galaxies are shown as white dots, and velocity flow streams within the region gravitationally dominated by Laniakea are shown in white. Importantly, the orange line encloses the outer limits of these streams.

Refer to Nature and  www.iflscience.co,  for more information

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Replies to This Discussion

I like this.  It reminds me I'm a speck of dust and all my problems are microscopic as well.

I've never asked where in the universe is the milkyway Galaxy?  That is an interesting question :-)

Just a comment:  galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe.  The galaxy superclusters aren't gravitationally bound, which means they expand along with the expansion of the universe.  Galaxy clusters would stay about the same size as the universe expands.   

Wonders of science! Universe seems to be full of billions of such wonders.




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