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Milky Way connected to a vast network of galaxies

Astronomers name home galactic supercluster Laniakea

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1:00pm, September 3, 2014

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD  The Milky Way (blue dot, center) lives in the outskirts of Laniakea (orange), a galactic supercluster 520 million light-years across. Galaxies (white dots) flow along streams (white lines) toward a central point.

The Milky Way is part of a much vaster galactic network than previously thought. The galaxy drifts along in a stream of galaxies on the outskirts of a newly identified collection of galaxy clusters, a supercluster named Laniakea. This supercluster — whose name means “heaven immeasurable” in Hawaiian — holds the mass of 100 million billion suns within a region that spans about 520 million light-years.

Astrophysicist R. Brent Tully of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and colleagues sifted through data describing the positions and velocities of over 8,000 galaxies to get a fresh look at the Milky Way’s place in space. After accounting for the motion caused by the expansion of the universe, the team created a three-dimensional view of how gravity molds the galaxy’s cosmic neighborhood.

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