Imagining where we are located in the universe is a really hard thing to do, mapping our place in the cosmos is perhaps even a greater challenge for scientists. While experts try and figure out the exact number of galaxies in the universe, the general consensus is that there are somewhere around 100 and 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. This figure, however, could be much larger speculate many researchers suggesting that everything we know about the universe is only a small fraction of what is out there in reality.
Imagine just how many galaxies are out there, and then try and think about the sheer number of stars in each galaxy, you will probably end up with a number in the trillions. Now add into all of the above mentioned, the possibility that at least one of those stars, has a planet similar to Earth and then ask yourself, just how likely is it, that we are the only species in the universe?
But let’s not travel too far. Let us take a glimpse at our galaxy the Milky Way, which measures approximately 120,000 light years across. Lets do some math: 1 Light Year equals to 5,878,625,373,183.607731 Miles! Consequently, 120,000 Light-Years are a staggering 7.054351e+17 miles!
ly -> mi
mi = ly * 5.878626e+12
mi = 120000 * 5.878626e+12
mi = 7.054351e+17
But anyway, let us forget math for a second here and try to imagine the incredible size of just one galaxy, the Milky way. Our galaxy alone contains some 400,000 billion stars, and the number of planets accompanying each one of those stars is just mind boggling.
However, we need to start from somewhere in order to understand our ‘physical’ place in the universe. We have to start mapping our cosmic neighbourhood, and a team of scientists has done just that, by gathering data for more than 8,000 galaxies that are in the vicinity of the Milky Way.
To get an idea of the cosmic map surrounding the milky way galaxy, researchers worked very hard in order to map the movement and position of each galaxy in space. They discovered that the Milky Way is in fact part of a breathtaking GIANT system that ‘holds’ together a number of different galaxies, referred to as a ‘Super Cluster’.
Perhaps an even greater discovery is the fact that ‘something’ in the universe is ‘pulling’ our galaxy, the Milky Way, and other galaxies towards IT at an incredible speed of 22 million kilometers per hour.
This unknown force which has been dubbed as “The Great Attractor” is pulling our galaxy and everything around it towards a particular point in space, located approximately 250 million light-years away. Basically, the Great Attractor is considered by researchers as a ‘gravitational anomaly’ located within the vicinity of the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster at the center of the Laniakea Supercluster.
Adding to the mystery is the fact that the ‘Great Attractor’ happens to lie in a direction in the sky referred to as the ‘Zone of Avoidance’. Towards that direction, there is so much dust and gas that our satellites and telescopes can’t see very far in the visible spectrum.
As you can see, the universe is incalculably large, and we are part of just one small system that moves through space at an incredibly fast speed.