Science 3 min read

Depth of our Cosmic Neighborhood's Local Void Measured by Scientists

Our galaxy is bordering a vast empty region, the Local Void, whose scale has now been mapped by astronomers. Studying the changing size and shape of the void could help us understand gravity and dark matter more.

Image courtesy of APOD/NASA

Image courtesy of APOD/NASA

If you’ve been following Edgy’s space science and astronomy coverage, you probably already have a basic idea of our place in the Universe. So bear with us, we’re going to throw some “astronomical” numbers at you because we’ll be talking of the “Local Void.”

Earth is one of the planets forming the solar system around our home star, the Sun, which is one of the (at least) 200 billion stars in the Milky Way.

As unfathomably huge and massive as the Milky Way is, it is but an insignificantly small part of the space-time tapestry that makes up the cosmos.

Galaxies are not usually isolated. In our case, the Milky Way has many neighbor galaxies of all types. Some are orbiting it like the dwarf galaxies, and Milky Way itself is a part of a larger structure called the Virgo cluster, which contains 2,000 galaxies.

These large swarms of galaxies are themselves parts of galactic filaments, also known as supercluster complexes or galaxy walls, that contain up to millions of galaxies. Between these large galaxy congregations are the “cosmic voids,” or the vast spaces that contain few or no galaxies at all.

3D Map of the Local Void Next Door

The scale of the Universe is mind-blowing, and the distribution of matter within is so erratic but at the same time driven by many forces working together, like gravity and dark matter.

The voids are just a part of the big cosmic picture, and the Universe is more “nothing” than “something.” We have one, the Local Void, right in our cosmic neighborhood, and astronomers have just mapped its extent.

Although they knew of the existence of the Local Void since it was first discovered in 1987 by Brent Tully and Rick Fisher, astronomers had little to no idea about its exact size and shape.

It’s hard from our terrestrial vantage point to get a clear picture of the Local Void’s contours. Previous studies estimate the Local Void to be around 150 million light-years across.

Now Tully, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA), is back with more revelations about the Local Void

An international team, led by Tully, used observations of the motion of 18,000 galaxies to create a 3D cosmographic map of the Local Void. Surprisingly, it appears to be getting more and more empty as the Universe expands.

“For 30 years, astronomers have been trying to identify why the motions of the Milky Way, our nearest large galaxy neighbor Andromeda, and their smaller neighbors deviate from the overall expansion of the Universe by over 600 km/s (1.3 million mph). The new study shows that roughly half of this motion is generated “locally” from the combination of a pull from the massive nearby Virgo Cluster and our participation in the expansion of the Local Void as it becomes ever emptier,” said the researchers in a statement.

In addition to the 3D rendition of the Local Void in the video below, you can also check this interactive 3D visualization of the void.

Read More: Scientists Simulate Creation Of Universe Based On Chameleon Theory

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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