The Milky Way in Context

distant-milky-way-stars-simulationNone of us can ever really complain (or boast) about living in the boonies again now that a team of astrophysicists led by John Bochanski of Haverford College has published an article identifying and describing the two most distant stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The stars, both Giants, are more than 750,000 light-years away from Earth, and both are drifting farther away from the galactic center every second that passes. Given the stars’ location on the periphery of the Milky Way, where interstellar gases are far more diffuse, the authors deem it highly unlikely that the stars originally formed in their current location. They offer several hypotheses, suggesting that the stars may have been ejected from the Milky Way, or that they may even belong to a previously unknown satellite galaxy. To learn more about this pair on the lonely outskirts of the galaxy, check out the links here, here, and here. Also, the rad image in the overhead banner is an artist’s representation of what the Milky Way would look like from the perspective of one of these Giants. As always, you can click on the image for a better version, as well as source citation information, or you can just click here.

LaniakeaIn related news, a team of scientists led by Brent Tully at the University of Hawaii recently announced that they have mapped the Milky Way’s location relative to all other galaxies in its celestial vicinity, and that they have dubbed this local super-cluster of galaxies Laniakea, which means “spacious heaven” in Hawaiian. Containing more than 100,000 galaxies and measuring more than 500-million light-years across, Laniakea is one of the biggest structures in the universe ever mapped. To learn more, check out the links here, here, and here, and check out this really cool video produced by the good folks over at Nature. If you’re still having trouble mentally grasping the size of Laniakea, you are not alone. If, however, you have no trouble conceptualizing just how big the Universe is and how you fit into it all, then you are alone, and you may well be The One.