25 October 2016

Our home Supercluster

Everyone knows their street address, the name of their town, their state or province (or County, or whatever), the nation they live in; that they live on Earth, a planet. Most people understand that the Earth, where they live, is in a star system (system of planets orbiting a star, a common entity in the universe), called the Solar System. That the sun and its planets are in something (maybe they're not too clear on what that something IS), called the Milky Way (or sometimes just the Galaxy, which is derived from a Greek word that means the same thing). (It's a larger-than-average barred spiral galaxy (lower-case 'g'), with something on the order of 300 billion stars, most of them a good deal smaller than the Sun, in case you are one of those not too clear).

The more astronomically oriented may know that the Milky Way is the second largest member of a smallish group of galaxies (the largest is M31, the Andromeda Galaxy), called the "Local Group" (how poetic). And maybe even that it's at the tail end of a medium size cluster of galaxies called the Virgo Cluster, which is centered on the Giant Elliptical Galaxy known as M87.

But few know we live in a particular Supercluster of Galaxies, which is one of the type of the largest gravitationally bound unit of matter defined, Superclusters. It's called (drumroll please), Laniakea. ("Immense Heaven" in Hawaiaan). This is a grouping of approximately 100,000 galaxies, and it really is a thing. Has been for billions of years. Probably other beings living in it have all kinds of other names for it, but we humans of Earth have named it Laniakea. Please remember that.

Here's what's in it: 

  • Virgo Cluster (formerly called Virgo Supercluster), the part in which the Milky Way resides (in the wispy tail end still called the Local Group).
  • Hydra-Centaurus (formerly called) Supercluster
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  • the Great Attractor, the Laniakea central gravitational point near Norma
    Antlia Wall, still referred to as the Hydra Supercluster (OK the terms are a little indefinite)
  • Centaurus Cluster (formerly Supercluster)
  • Pavo-Indus Cluser (formerly Supercluster)
  • Southern Cluster (Supercluster), including Fornax Cluster (S373), Dorado and Eridanus clouds

(Does not include the Coma Supercluster, which is beyond Virgo in a direction away from the Great Attractor).

​ Laniakea Supercluster 

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