Astronomers have named and mapped the supercluster of galaxies that contains our own. 

Astronomers sometimes think of galaxies as being like massive neighborhoods, using gravity to bind stars, dust, and dark matter. As neighborhoods, they don't sprawl. Rather, they're found within groups of dozens of other galaxies, and those groups within massive "superclusters" that contain hundreds of galaxies, all interconnected by a network of thread-like baryonic matter

Now, our own galactic megalopolis has a name: "Laniakea," meaning "immense heaven" in Hawaiian. An international team of astronomers, led by renowned scientist R. Brent Tully, has defined the supercluster of galaxies containing the Milky Way, publishing their work today in Nature

The astronomers studied how the movement of our local galactic group is affected by the gravitational pull of other galaxies within Laniakea, and used the data to create a sort of imaginary map of the supercluster. 

 The Laniakea Supercluster. (SDvision interactive visualization software by DP at CEA/Saclay, France)

Above is part of that map. It shows a slice of Laniakea, shown within the "supergalactic equatorial plane"—an imaginary plane that shows not only our supercluster but also others nearby. The white lines show how Laniakea's gravity pulls galaxy groups towards it, while dark blue flow lines are away from Laniakea's attraction. The orange circle encloses the outer limits of these gravitional flows, effectively charting the perimeter of our supercluster. Their findings state this region contains the mass of about 1017 suns: 100 million billion suns.

For finer clarity, have a look at this strangely moving video, which was produced to accompany the paper.


Laniakea Supercluster Preview from Daniel Pomarède on Vimeo.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. an aerial view of Los Angeles shows the complex of freeways, new construction, familiar landmarks, and smog in 1962.
    Transportation

    The Problem With Amazon’s Cheap Gas Stunt

    The company promoted its TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with a day of throwback 1959-style prices in Los Angeles. What could go wrong?

  2. A rendering of Oakland, California, that replaces Interstate 980 with a surface boulevard
    Transportation

    Here Are the Urban Highways That Deserve to Die

    The Congress for New Urbanism once again ranks the most-loathed urban freeways in North America—and makes the case for tearing them down.

  3. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  4. a photo of the L.A. Metro Expo Line extension
    Life

    Why Can’t I Take Public Transit to the Beach?

    In the U.S., getting to the beach usually means driving. But some sandy shores can still be reached by train, subway, and bus.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×