Scientists develop most detailed map yet of our universe

5 Sep 2014

In this latest map of our supercluster, the Milky Way is represented by the red dot. Image via Nature

A new map showing the Milky Way’s place in the universe has shown we are part of a larger supercluster, much larger than previously thought.

The galaxy we inhabit, the Milky Way, is one tiny fragment of a supercluster a team of researchers have called Laniakea, which means ‘immeasurable heaven’ in the Hawaiian language.

Laniakea contains more than 100,000 galaxies spread across a distance of 500m light years, according to Nature.

The researchers on the project led by Brent Tully found that previous measurements of the scale of superclusters were 100 times smaller than the latest findings.

In this diagram, each dot represents a galaxy, with the Milky Way in the centre, surrounded by galaxies moving away from us (red) and galaxies moving towards us (blue). Image via Nature

In order to arrive at this calculation, the research team had to use a database to combine the velocity of 8,000 galaxies into an algorithm that could then accurately turn this mass of numbers into a 3D galaxy map showing flow and density.

However, astrophysicist Paulo Lopes from the University of Rio de Janeiro has said that while the map is the most accurate to date, the flaw in its design is that the further we try to measure past our own supercluster, the less accurate it becomes. However, this can be addressed by adding more galaxy measurements.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic