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. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  2. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  3. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  4. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

  5. A map showing the affordability of housing in the U.S.
    Equity

    Minimum Wage Still Can’t Pay For A Two-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    The 30th anniversary edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “Out of Reach,” shows that housing affordability is getting worse, not better.

×