New map shows Milky Way lives in Laniakea galaxy complex

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. Wed Sep 3, 2014 3:14pm EDT

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CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - The Milky Way galaxy resides on the outskirts of a massive, previously unknown galaxy super-cluster scientists have named Laniakea, from Hawaiian words for "immeasurable heaven."

The discovery, reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature, stems from a new mapping technique that combines not only the distances between more than 8,000 nearby galaxies, but also their relative motions.

The technique enables astronomers for the first time to clearly delineate where one super-cluster of galaxies ends and another gravitationally bound super-cluster structure begins.

The new maps show the Milky Way galaxy, along with the Virgo cluster and some 100,000 other galaxies, are gravitationally sailing in the same gigantic cosmic pool, named Laniakea.

The super-cluster spans some 520 million light-years in diameter. One light-year is the distance that light, which moves at about 186,000 miles per second (300,000 km/s), travels in one year, or roughly 5.88 trillion miles (9.46 trillion km).

Scientists previously believed the Milky Way galaxy, which is where Earth and the rest of the solar system reside, was part of a cluster measuring about 100 million light-years in diameter. The new study shows that structure is just an appendage of the larger Laniakea.

Bordering Laniakea are the Shapley, Hercules, Coma and Perseus-Pieces super-clusters, though the far edges of the neighboring galaxy complexes have not yet been determined. Thousands more distance measurements will be needed for that, said astronomer and lead researcher Brent Tully, with the University of Hawaii.

"We haven’t seen the edges of our neighbors and we haven’t seen far enough to understand what’s causing this full motion of our galaxy,” Tully said in an interview.

Having a clear method for identifying super-clusters is expected to help scientists piece together a better idea of how galaxies, including the Milky Way, evolve, astronomer Elmo Tempel, with the Tartu Observatory in Estonia, said in a related Nature commentary.

“Hopefully, this will initiate observational programs to carry out additional direct-distance measurements of galaxies,” Tempel wrote in an email to Reuters.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (3)
morbas wrote:
One must question human cognitive interpolations of stellar patterns.
We cannot even measure the size and mass of our Milky Way Galaxy. This so distorted we actually surmise a gravitational Keplerian Law motion problem with star orbitals just beyond that of SOL. And, the Hubble red shift is interpolated as expansion of space time itself rather than fundamental physical Bremsstrahlung (electron acceleration losses).

Sep 03, 2014 9:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
DavidinWY wrote:
What? You mean we’re NOT the exact center of all Gods creation? Next they’ll try to say that the universe isn’t flat, and we won’t fall off the edge if we get too far from the Earth!

Sep 03, 2014 11:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Foxtrot1387 wrote:
DavidinWY: Hey you are gonna get the toxic amoebas in the GOP mad at you. PS: You didn’t mention that Earth is only a shade older than 6,000 years.

Sep 04, 2014 2:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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