Thursday, June 06, 2013

Cosmography: Knowing Our Place in the Local Universe

Given a three-dimensional model of the solar system, almost everyone can zoom in from beyond the Oort cloud to the planet Earth and then even further to the street where they live. It is powerful shared knowledge.

But at greater distances, our geographical knowledge becomes a little blurred. Many people will have seen the extraordinary three-dimensional models of the filamentary structures that galaxies form on the larger scales in our universe.

And yet these structures remain strangely unfamiliar. Given an unlabelled three-dimensional model of this large-scale structure of the universe, who could point to the place we call home?

All that should begin to change in the next few years with the increasingly accurate maps that cosmologists are compiling of the three-dimensional distribution of galaxies within universe.

Today, Helene Courtois at the University of Lyon in France and a few buddies show off this newfound knowledge in a movie (and accompanying paper) that they’ve created to explore the rich structure of our galactic neighbourhood.

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