Complete 3D Map of the Local Universe

It’s always nice to know that amazing science is being done in local institutions.  Here in Ontario, Canada, we have 24 universities, and I had the pleasure of attending two of them, giving me a first hand look at the day to day work of astronomers.  It certainly helped me realize how hard scientists work to get one simple result that the public will only care about for a day or two.

About 95% of the work, from grant writing to data acquisition to data reduction to analysis and interpretation, is behind the scenes, and the final 5%, the result, is all that will matter to people.  It makes it a lot more difficult when you consider how many institutions across the world are battling for the same grant money and working in similar fields all trying to achieve the next breakthrough in their respective sub-field.

So it made me very happy to see a big story pop up from the University of Waterloo, one of the big universities about an hour and a half North-West of Toronto.  Astronomers Mike Hudson, Jonathan Carrick and Stephen Turnbull, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, worked with Guilhem Lavaux the Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique of France to create a 3D map of the local universe showing density of galaxies.  Giving us a true picture of our extragalactic address.

A slice through the 3-D map of the nearby universe is shown. Our Milky Way galaxy is in the center, marked by a cross. The map spans nearly two billion light years from side to side. Regions with many galaxies are shown in white or red, whereas regions with fewer galaxies are dark blue. Credit: University of Waterloo

The images show slices of a spherical region 2 Billion light years in diameter.  The view is what you would see if someone sliced an apple in half and showed you the inside.  The map, showing the distribution of the local clusters and superclusters of galaxies, will help us gain a better understanding of the distribution and origin of dark matter in the Universe.  The red area in the above image represents the Shapley concentration, the densest group of galaxies in the local universe, toward the constellation of Centaurus.

The astronomers released two videos at different density divisions, to show the broad and finer structures.

The maps reveal a lot of interesting qualities of the structures of the universe. “The galaxy distribution isn’t uniform and has no pattern. It has peaks and valleys much like a mountain range. This is what we expect if the large-scale structure originates from quantum fluctuations in the early universe,” said Hudson, also associate dean of science, computing.

The next step for the team is to obtain more measurements of the motions and distances of galaxies to give a better resolution of the map, and hopefully unlock the secrets of the universe’s evolution.

2 thoughts on “Complete 3D Map of the Local Universe

  1. Incredible! Ofcourse we knew most of what’s out there already, and this map features no new discoveries, but it’s an amazing sight to have it all constructed like this. The universe is just incredible. I can’t wait for my next trip to go skygazing again!

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