Earth’s place in the local universe

You are here. You live in a galaxy known as the Milky Way – a vast conglomeration of 300 billion stars, planets whizzing around them, and clouds of gas and dust floating in between.    Watch the video…

A diagram showing the brightest galaxies within 20 million light years of the Milky Way, as seen from above. The largest galaxies, here shown in yellow at different points around the dotted line, make up the ‘Council of Giants’. Credit: Marshall McCall / York University. Click here for a full-size image



Although it has long been known that the Milky Way and its orbiting companion the Andromeda Galaxy are the dominant members of a small group of galaxies called the Local Group, which is about 3 million light years across, much less was known about our immediate neighbourhood in the universe.

A new paper by Professor Marshall McCall of York University, Canada, maps out bright galaxies within 35-million light years of the Earth, offering up an expanded picture of what lies beyond our doorstep. The work was published today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Earth’s place in the local universe

A diagram showing the brightest galaxies within 20 million light years of the Milky Way, this time viewed from the side. Credit: Marshall McCall / York University. Click for a full-size image

“All bright galaxies within 20 million light years, including us, are organized in a ‘Local Sheet’ 34-million light years across and only 1.5-million light years thick” says McCall. “The Milky Way and Andromeda are encircled by twelve large galaxies arranged in a ring about 24-million light years across – this ‘Council of Giants’ stands in gravitational judgment of the Local Group by restricting its range of influence.”

source Royal Astronomical Society