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 pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

  2. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  3. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  4. Coronavirus

    A State Besieged by Coronavirus Asks Police to Slow Arrests

    Despite Covid-19’s spread in New Orleans, police have recently increased arrests for nonviolent crimes. Louisiana’s top court could put a stop to that.

  5. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

×