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By social 15 Oct, 2015
Let’s start off by talking about our little piece of the universe. To truly understand it, one must have a simple (not the best term but please bear with me) understanding of distances. We all pretty much know that Earth is the third planet in our Solar System and is 93 million miles from the sun. Even that is not easily grasped.

NASA launched Voyager 1 in 1977 and it has been traveling at a speed close to 40,000 miles an hour since its launch. (It could orbit the Earth almost twice in one hour.) It has been traveling at that speed for a little more than 38 years and, just recently, passed the outer edge of the Solar System and entered intergalactic space. Think about that! Thirty eight years to leave the Solar System. Traveling at its current speed, it will take Voyager 1,634 more years to travel one light year. The closest star to us (other than our sun) is a little further than three light years. Have I lost you yet?

The point I’m trying to make here is that even traveling at 40,000 miles an hour, the closest star (Proxima Centaura) will take longer than a human life span to reach. Much longer! About five thousand years will get you there at the speeds we’re currently launching rockets from Earth. Now, if the ship we launch is capable of continuing to accelerate to much higher speeds, then the time could be shortened. That would require some means of propulsion that we currently don’t have. Think about how large the ship would have to be to carry enough fuel.

However, the topic today is distance, not how to travel quickly. This next part of the discussion is going to get, as my good friend Roy would say, HEAVY. We’re going to use a light year to measure things and just remember that it takes sixteen hundred years to travel one light year at 40,000 miles an hour.
The sun is one star in the galaxy our Solar System is in. There are more than three billion stars in the Milky Way and our galaxy is approximately 120,000 light years across. Let’s pause a moment. Using our measures, it would take Voyager one hundred and ninety two million years to fly the width of the Milky Way. On Earth, 192 million years ago, T-Rexes were the boss hogs. (They would meet their undoing 27 million years later when the giant asteroid slammed into Earth causing a massive extinction. But that’s another story. Check out the series   Trapped in Time   which deals with that time in history.)

At this point, I hope you have an idea of the sheer size of the galaxy we inhabit. The Milky Way is a beautiful spiral galaxy with two (some scientists are now claiming three) arms that spin around the central black hole, whose gravity keeps everything in its place. Everything in the Milky Way spins around that black hole. It takes the Milky Way 220 million years to complete one rotation around the central black hole.

Alright, enough of the small stuff. Are you ready to really expand your mind? Our galaxy is part of a cluster of galaxies called the Local Group. There are 54 galaxies that appear to revolve around a point located between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. Most of the galaxies that comprise this cluster are dwarf galaxies that are much smaller than the two largest galaxies (Milky Way and Andromeda). Andromeda is 2.5 million light years from the Milky Way and is currently headed directly toward us. In four billion years, the two will collide and merge into a super galaxy. (Keep your eyes out for that one.) The space these fifty four galaxies are located in is 10 million light years across. (If you google The Local Group, you’ll find a list of the 54 galaxies and where they’re located.)

So now you’re getting an idea of our little nook in the universe. However, there’s one more thing and I’ll end this long diatribe. Most of my stories are written with the various galaxies in our cluster in them. However, the galaxy I use most often is M-87. Ohhh, what a monster it is! You see, the Local Group is part of a much larger group of Galaxies named the Virgo Supercluster.

The Local Group is part of this giant gathering of galaxies which number between thirteen hundred and two thousand galaxies. They are bound to each other through gravity and are all revolving around a center located about 54 million light years away. M-87 is the largest galaxy in the cluster and is estimated to be more than six to eight times larger than the Milky Way. However, it is a ball shaped galaxy and it is estimated to contain 2 trillion stars compared to the Milky Way’s three billion. (That’s more than six hundred times more stars.) I use it in many of my stories because there’s six hundred times more stars where intelligent life could exist.

Understanding just the area our galaxy exists in is not easy but it’s a start at getting a feel for just how large the universe truly is. This is something that must be digested in small bites and makes appreciating the larger picture a bit easier. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful.  
By social 15 Oct, 2015

There’s been a startling new discovery about our location in the universe. I have written about the Virgo Supercluster in many of my books and used the giant galaxy M-87 as the source of many aggressive civilizations. The Milky Way is a part of this supercluster along with all the galaxies that are close it. Some of those include Andromeda, the Large and Small Magellanic clouds along with many dwarf galaxies. However, all of them are part of the larger Virgo Supercluster that appears to be revolving around a point close to M-87.


A study completed in September, 2014 has discovered that we are part of a super cluster that boggles the imagination. Instead of just two to three thousand galaxies, it’s been determined that the Virgo Supercluster is part of a giant supercluster named the Laniakea Supercluster, which has more than a hundred thousand galaxies in it. It occupies a space larger than 520 million light years across. The study concluded that all of the Superclusters contained in Laniakea shared a common point of rotation. I’ve attached an article from Wikipedia that explains what was discovered. The size and scope of this new supercluster is amazing. Note that the last line says that Laniakea is not bound together by gravity and that dark energy is expected to tear it apart in the millions of years yet to come
 
Wikipedia:
The Laniakea Supercluster encompasses 100,000 galaxies stretched out over 160   megaparsecs   (520 million   light-years ). It has the approximate   binding mass   of 1017   solar masses, or a hundred thousand times that of our Galaxy, which is almost the same as that of the massive   Horologium Supercluster . It consists of four subparts, which are known previously as separate superclusters:

The most massive galaxy clusters of Laniakea are   Virgo ,   Hydra ,   Centaurus ,   Abell 3565 ,   Abell 3574 ,   Abell 3521 ,   Fornax ,   Eridanus   and   Norma . The entire supercluster consists of approximately 300 to 500 known galaxy clusters and groups. The real number may be much larger, because some of these are traversing the   Zone of Avoidance , making them essentially undetectable.
Superclusters are some of the universe’s largest structures, and have boundaries that are difficult to define, especially from the inside. The team used radio telescopes to map the motions of a large collection of local galaxies. Within a given supercluster, most galaxy motions will be directed inward, toward the   center of mass . In the case of Laniakea, this gravitational focal point is called the   Great Attractor , and influences the motions of our   Local Group   of galaxies (where our Milky Way Galaxy resides) and all others throughout our supercluster. Unlike its constituent clusters, Laniakea is not   gravitationally bound   and is projected to be torn apart by   dark energy . [5]

By social 15 Oct, 2015
Let’s start off by talking about our little piece of the universe. To truly understand it, one must have a simple (not the best term but please bear with me) understanding of distances. We all pretty much know that Earth is the third planet in our Solar System and is 93 million miles from the sun. Even that is not easily grasped.

NASA launched Voyager 1 in 1977 and it has been traveling at a speed close to 40,000 miles an hour since its launch. (It could orbit the Earth almost twice in one hour.) It has been traveling at that speed for a little more than 38 years and, just recently, passed the outer edge of the Solar System and entered intergalactic space. Think about that! Thirty eight years to leave the Solar System. Traveling at its current speed, it will take Voyager 1,634 more years to travel one light year. The closest star to us (other than our sun) is a little further than three light years. Have I lost you yet?

The point I’m trying to make here is that even traveling at 40,000 miles an hour, the closest star (Proxima Centaura) will take longer than a human life span to reach. Much longer! About five thousand years will get you there at the speeds we’re currently launching rockets from Earth. Now, if the ship we launch is capable of continuing to accelerate to much higher speeds, then the time could be shortened. That would require some means of propulsion that we currently don’t have. Think about how large the ship would have to be to carry enough fuel.

However, the topic today is distance, not how to travel quickly. This next part of the discussion is going to get, as my good friend Roy would say, HEAVY. We’re going to use a light year to measure things and just remember that it takes sixteen hundred years to travel one light year at 40,000 miles an hour.
The sun is one star in the galaxy our Solar System is in. There are more than three billion stars in the Milky Way and our galaxy is approximately 120,000 light years across. Let’s pause a moment. Using our measures, it would take Voyager one hundred and ninety two million years to fly the width of the Milky Way. On Earth, 192 million years ago, T-Rexes were the boss hogs. (They would meet their undoing 27 million years later when the giant asteroid slammed into Earth causing a massive extinction. But that’s another story. Check out the series   Trapped in Time   which deals with that time in history.)

At this point, I hope you have an idea of the sheer size of the galaxy we inhabit. The Milky Way is a beautiful spiral galaxy with two (some scientists are now claiming three) arms that spin around the central black hole, whose gravity keeps everything in its place. Everything in the Milky Way spins around that black hole. It takes the Milky Way 220 million years to complete one rotation around the central black hole.

Alright, enough of the small stuff. Are you ready to really expand your mind? Our galaxy is part of a cluster of galaxies called the Local Group. There are 54 galaxies that appear to revolve around a point located between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. Most of the galaxies that comprise this cluster are dwarf galaxies that are much smaller than the two largest galaxies (Milky Way and Andromeda). Andromeda is 2.5 million light years from the Milky Way and is currently headed directly toward us. In four billion years, the two will collide and merge into a super galaxy. (Keep your eyes out for that one.) The space these fifty four galaxies are located in is 10 million light years across. (If you google The Local Group, you’ll find a list of the 54 galaxies and where they’re located.)

So now you’re getting an idea of our little nook in the universe. However, there’s one more thing and I’ll end this long diatribe. Most of my stories are written with the various galaxies in our cluster in them. However, the galaxy I use most often is M-87. Ohhh, what a monster it is! You see, the Local Group is part of a much larger group of Galaxies named the Virgo Supercluster.

The Local Group is part of this giant gathering of galaxies which number between thirteen hundred and two thousand galaxies. They are bound to each other through gravity and are all revolving around a center located about 54 million light years away. M-87 is the largest galaxy in the cluster and is estimated to be more than six to eight times larger than the Milky Way. However, it is a ball shaped galaxy and it is estimated to contain 2 trillion stars compared to the Milky Way’s three billion. (That’s more than six hundred times more stars.) I use it in many of my stories because there’s six hundred times more stars where intelligent life could exist.

Understanding just the area our galaxy exists in is not easy but it’s a start at getting a feel for just how large the universe truly is. This is something that must be digested in small bites and makes appreciating the larger picture a bit easier. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful.  
By social 15 Oct, 2015

There’s been a startling new discovery about our location in the universe. I have written about the Virgo Supercluster in many of my books and used the giant galaxy M-87 as the source of many aggressive civilizations. The Milky Way is a part of this supercluster along with all the galaxies that are close it. Some of those include Andromeda, the Large and Small Magellanic clouds along with many dwarf galaxies. However, all of them are part of the larger Virgo Supercluster that appears to be revolving around a point close to M-87.


A study completed in September, 2014 has discovered that we are part of a super cluster that boggles the imagination. Instead of just two to three thousand galaxies, it’s been determined that the Virgo Supercluster is part of a giant supercluster named the Laniakea Supercluster, which has more than a hundred thousand galaxies in it. It occupies a space larger than 520 million light years across. The study concluded that all of the Superclusters contained in Laniakea shared a common point of rotation. I’ve attached an article from Wikipedia that explains what was discovered. The size and scope of this new supercluster is amazing. Note that the last line says that Laniakea is not bound together by gravity and that dark energy is expected to tear it apart in the millions of years yet to come
 
Wikipedia:
The Laniakea Supercluster encompasses 100,000 galaxies stretched out over 160   megaparsecs   (520 million   light-years ). It has the approximate   binding mass   of 1017   solar masses, or a hundred thousand times that of our Galaxy, which is almost the same as that of the massive   Horologium Supercluster . It consists of four subparts, which are known previously as separate superclusters:

The most massive galaxy clusters of Laniakea are   Virgo ,   Hydra ,   Centaurus ,   Abell 3565 ,   Abell 3574 ,   Abell 3521 ,   Fornax ,   Eridanus   and   Norma . The entire supercluster consists of approximately 300 to 500 known galaxy clusters and groups. The real number may be much larger, because some of these are traversing the   Zone of Avoidance , making them essentially undetectable.
Superclusters are some of the universe’s largest structures, and have boundaries that are difficult to define, especially from the inside. The team used radio telescopes to map the motions of a large collection of local galaxies. Within a given supercluster, most galaxy motions will be directed inward, toward the   center of mass . In the case of Laniakea, this gravitational focal point is called the   Great Attractor , and influences the motions of our   Local Group   of galaxies (where our Milky Way Galaxy resides) and all others throughout our supercluster. Unlike its constituent clusters, Laniakea is not   gravitationally bound   and is projected to be torn apart by   dark energy . [5]

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