By Rebekah Marcarelli firstname.lastname@example.org | Sep 03, 2014 02:31 PM EDT
Researchers determined our Milky Way is part of a supercluster of galaxies which has been dubbed "Laniakea," meaning "immense heaven" in Hawaiian.
The discovery clarifies the boundaries of the universe and gives our own galaxy an address for the first time, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory reported.
"We have finally established the contours that define the supercluster of galaxies we can call home," said lead researcher R. Brent Tully, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "This is not unlike finding out for the first time that your hometown is actually part of much larger country that borders other nations."
Superclusters are sone of the largest structured in the universe. The superclusters contains massive clusters encompassing hundreds of galaxies and Local Groups encompassing only a few dozen; all of these galaxies are connected through a web of filaments.
The researchers proposed a new way to map out these poorly defined clusters by examining their impact on the motion of the galaxy. A galaxy between structures will be caught in a sort of gravitational "tug of war." The team made their finding using the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT).
"Green Bank Telescope observations have played a significant role in the research leading to this new understanding of the limits and relationships among a number of superclusters," Tully said.
The Milky Way was found to be located in the outskirts of the Laniakea Supercluste, which is 500 million light-years in diameter and contains mass of one hundred million billion Suns spread across 100,000 galaxies.
The findings helped researchers gain insight into the Great Attractor, which is a gravitational "focal point" of intergalactic space that has a pull on our Local Group.
The findings will be the cover story of the Sept. 4 issue of the journal Nature.