Fifty years ago I was content with the concept of an infinite universe --- infinite in time and space. Then I started learning about expansion, deflation, the big bang, string theory, parallel universes, 11 dimensions, criticisms of string theory, etc.
I was shaken from my contentedness by the turmoil and uncertainty of it all. Ms Eclectic and I began reading more and watching more PBS-type television programmes about cosmology. I cannot even pretend to understand the mathematics and all the physics of cosmology [mired, as I am, in my basic Newtonian world outlook which struggles for even/especially/only an intuitive grasp of relativity and quantum physics], but I love trying to understand cosmology.
And so it is with pleasure and delight that I read this article [via RalphK]. It doesn't really help me understand cosmology any better, but it is a fascinating expansion of human knowledge about the earth, the Milky Way, and the universe.
[O]ur galaxy is a mere speck in a larger structure, which was just revealed for the first time by a group of scientists who created a map of more than 8,000 galaxies in an effort to understand where they fit in the universe.
The team placed the Milky Way on the outskirts of a massive, previously unknown galaxy super-cluster scientists have named Laniakea, from the Hawaiian words for "immeasurable heaven."
The finding, 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 motion as the universe expands and galaxies are pulled through space by gravity.
It sort of looks as if we're in suburbs of Laniakea:
Note that this is a two-dimensional map of what is surely 3 or 4 (or more?) dimensions. Where were these galaxies and other clusters 5 billion years ago? and is this a map of where astronomers think they are now or where they were when they emitted the light we see now?
"Immeasurable Heaven", Laniakea, is a good term. I like it. And I'm thrilled with the increased understanding of the universe even if this understanding means little or nothing to our lives and struggles on earth.