For centuries, mankind has understood where the Earth fits into the solar system. While many thought the universe revolved around the Earth, others eventually figured out that our planet, like trillions of others, revolves around a sun. Later, we would learn that billions of other clusters of planets with their own suns make up our galaxy. And then we found out that billions of galaxies like ours make up the universe. See all three maps, complete with You Are Here arrows. A new addition to the Whiteout Press Timeless section.
Earlier this month, and for the first time ever, the location of planet Earth was marked on the largest map of our universe ever produced. The map, published by the journal Nature and reported by Business Insider, included the locations of 8,000 different galaxies, including our own Milky Way. Led by researchers at the University of Hawaii, the team made some astonishing discoveries.
Just as we live in the Solar System and the Solar System resides in the Milky Way galaxy, we also apparently live in galaxy super-cluster called Laniakea. The name is Hawaiian and means ‘immeasurable heaven’. Before we lose everyone, think of it like this:
- the Earth is near the center of our Solar System
- our Solar System is near the outer edge of the Milky Way galaxy
- the Milky Way galaxy is on the extreme outer tip of the Laniakea super-cluster of galaxies
- nobody knows where Laniakea sits in the overall universe
Scientists explained their discovery by saying that contrary to common misconception, the universe isn’t made up of billions of galaxies equally scattered around the limitless universe. Instead, they say the universe is made up mainly of empty dark space. The billions of galaxies it contains are clumped together with hundreds of thousands of galaxies flowing together through space in the same direction, much like a flock of birds. Just like birds in the sky, there are also countless other clusters of galaxies clumped together and with their own speed and trajectory.
The researchers also said that the super-cluster of galaxies the Milky Way resides in is actually 520 million light years wide, instead of the 100 million light years scientists previously thought. The world’s scientists have already estimated the existence and location of over 100,000 other galaxies, all residing in our Laniakea super-cluster. And they say we neighbor four other known super-clusters. They include our Shapley, Hercules, Coma and Perseus-Pieces.
Another revelation scientists explained is that there is a force of some kind that keeps the Milky Way attached to the Laniakea super-cluster. We reside on the outer extreme of the group, but still travel as if our galaxy is bound to the other 100,000. They compared it to the same gravitational pull that keeps the Earth revolving around the Sun and our solar system revolving around the nucleus of the Milky Way galaxy. The scientists said they next hope to map out the space just beyond the five known galaxy super-clusters.