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Superclusters and voids

After astronomers discovered clusters of galaxies, they naturally wondered whether there were still larger structures in the universe. Do clusters of galaxies gather together? To answer this question, we must be able to map large parts of the universe in three dimensions. We must know not only the position of each galaxy on the sky (that’s two dimensions) but also its distance from us (the third dimension).

This means we must be able to measure the redshift of each galaxy in our map. Taking a spectrum of each individual galaxy to do this is a much more time-consuming task than simply counting galaxies seen in different directions on the sky, as Hubble did. Today, astronomers have found ways to get the spectra of many galaxies in the same field of view (sometimes hundreds or even thousands at a time) to cut down the time it takes to finish their three-dimensional maps. Larger telescopes are also able to measure the redshifts—and therefore the distances—of much more distant galaxies and (again) to do so much more quickly than previously possible.

Another challenge astronomers faced in deciding how to go about constructing a map of the universe is similar to that confronted by the first team of explorers in a huge, uncharted territory on Earth. Since there is only one band of explorers and an enormous amount of land, they have to make choices about where to go first. One strategy might be to strike out in a straight line in order to get a sense of the terrain. They might, for example, cross some mostly empty prairies and then hit a dense forest. As they make their way through the forest, they learn how thick it is in the direction they are traveling, but not its width to their left or right. Then a river crosses their path; as they wade across, they can measure its width but learn nothing about its length. Still, as they go on in their straight line, they begin to get some sense of what the landscape is like and can make at least part of a map. Other explorers, striking out in other directions, will someday help fill in the remaining parts of that map.

Astronomers have traditionally had to make the same sort of choices. We cannot explore the universe in every direction to infinite “depth” or sensitivity: there are far too many galaxies and far too few telescopes to do the job. But we can pick a single direction or a small slice of the sky and start mapping the galaxies. Margaret Geller, the late John Huchra, and their students at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics pioneered this technique, and several other groups have extended their work to cover larger volumes of space.

Margaret geller: cosmic surveyor

Born in 1947, Margaret Geller is the daughter of a chemist who encouraged her interest in science and helped her visualize the three-dimensional structure of molecules as a child. (It was a skill that would later come in very handy for visualizing the three-dimensional structure of the universe.) She remembers being bored in elementary school, but she was encouraged to read on her own by her parents. Her recollections also include subtle messages from teachers that mathematics (her strong early interest) was not a field for girls, but she did not allow herself to be deterred.

Geller obtained a BA in physics from the University of California at Berkeley and became the second woman to receive a PhD in physics from Princeton. There, while working with James Peebles, one of the world’s leading cosmologists, she became interested in problems relating to the large-scale structure of the universe. In 1980, she accepted a research position at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, one of the nation’s most dynamic institutions for astronomy research. She saw that to make progress in understanding how galaxies and clusters are organized, a far more intensive series of surveys was required. Although it would not bear fruit for many years, Geller and her collaborators began the long, arduous task of mapping the galaxies ( [link] ).

Margaret geller.

Photograph of Margaret Geller.
Geller’s work mapping and researching galaxies has helped us to better understand the structure of the universe. (credit: modification of work by Massimo Ramella)

Her team was fortunate to be given access to a telescope that could be dedicated to their project, the 60-inch reflector on Mount Hopkins, near Tucson, Arizona, where they and their assistants took spectra to determine galaxy distances. To get a slice of the universe, they pointed their telescope at a predetermined position in the sky and then let the rotation of Earth bring new galaxies into their field of view. In this way, they measured the positions and redshifts of over 18,000 galaxies and made a wide range of interesting maps to display their data. Their surveys now include “slices” in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

As news of her important work spread beyond the community of astronomers, Geller received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1990. These fellowships, popularly called “genius awards,” are designed to recognize truly creative work in a wide range of fields. Geller continues to have a strong interest in visualization and has (with filmmaker Boyd Estus) made several award-winning videos explaining her work to nonscientists (one is titled So Many Galaxies . . . So Little Time ). She has appeared on a variety of national news and documentary programs, including the MacNeil / Lehrer NewsHour , The Astronomers , and The Infinite Voyage . Energetic and outspoken, she has given talks on her work to many audiences around the country, and works hard to find ways to explain the significance of her pioneering surveys to the public.

“It’s exciting to discover something that nobody’s seen before. [To be] one of the first three people to ever see that slice of the universe [was]sort of being like Columbus. . . . Nobody expected such a striking pattern!” —Margaret Geller

Questions & Answers

why the dark side of moon never face us? because moon dont rotate? why tho
Rishabh Reply
im in 8th standard and my school teach us nothing about astronomy but i want to be an astronomer so i study from youtube and apps like this but sometimes i get language problems
Rishabh
dark**
Glory
side**
Glory
The Moon does actually rotate. It takes 27 days for the Moon to make a full rotation. Because it takes it so long and the Earth is rotating around the sun, it seems like the Moon is pretty much standing still. That's called "synchronous rotation".
steveh259
I ment to say "The Earth is orbiting around the sun"
steveh259
Tidal Locked.....
Adam
***svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4442
Collins
thats cool
Gospel
ya gives you a look at how the moon orbits around us too and a perspective of how fast we are going. also gives the moon phases for the year! enjoy 😁
Collins
yes you are absolutely correct, it just like something like the milk of heaven
Subhasish
the far side of the moon is not the dark side of the moon.
Shawn
what phases of the moon occurs when spring tide?
Florence Reply
the moon has a 28 day cycle. you can download a moon calander or follow the pattern and make your own calendar. 1st full moon of the year 21/22nd Jan, its also a blood moon and a wolf moon. if this info helps at all. 😊
Collins
***svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4442
Collins
How to determine the velocity of light?
PARTHIB Reply
using this formula c=1/√absolute permeability×absolute permittivity of free space i.e. c=1/√8.854×10^-12×4π×10^-7~3×10^8ms^-1
Vidyashankar
what is mean by Big Bang
block Reply
What it means by Big Bang is how the world was made and came in to exist
Glory
The Big Bang Is The Best Explanation For What We See Around Us, And For The Origin Of The Universe, All Our Evidence Points To The Big Bang Theory..... And Was Proposed By A Belgian Priest.....
Adam
if the big bang theory is really true than i would like to know what exploded and where did it came from and where did the energy came from and where come from for the matter to expand into amd where did the organization come from and where did the information come from.........
Gospel
Some say that on the otherside of the singularity was a black hole. They say that at the other end of all black holes is another universe. Hence the multiverse. It's all theoretical at this point but less than a 100 years ago people believed that there was only 1 galaxy in the universe. So why
Rafael
should there be only 1 universe?
Rafael
universe.
Rafael
is astronomy a hard subject to learn because i want to be an astronomer
FNAF Reply
No it not it just takes time and effort to learn
Glory
if your already interested/observing, your already an astronomer ! The more you look and read the more you'll learn.
Collins
I want to become a scientist but my knowledge is very low. How I can improve my knowledge?
Wwe
any form of science courses, there's free crash course channel on you tube. I've learned alot from this channel. covers most topics, science: biology chemistry physics, astronomy, ranges to anatomy, history and many many more. it's a never ending subject!
Collins
suggest a channel as a example
Wwe
CrashCourse is the name of the channel and there is a picture of an apple. look through their play lists. They will have other related channels they follow also.
Collins
thank you so much
Wwe
your very welcome
Collins
Why are they so far away that their light takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us on earth?
LadyCatTM Reply
what is comets , astroids ,
Sumit Reply
comets are broken pieces of dust frozen debris Asteroids are big soiled pieces of Ice that burst into flames when it in to earth's atmosphere
Glory
hi, I am yamini, I am in class 8 but very much interested in astronomy and go to NASA, what are the subjects in which I can master and lead to NASA.
yamini Reply
Hello Yamini, Im Ken and I'm avery intrested in joining the NASA too. Is nice to meet you.
Ken
very*
Ken
nice to meet u ken
yamini
What I know about the subjects is that you have to be a master on science and math, also if you know about aviation is better too
Ken
I read that the Russian language is very important, is not a requirement but it's like an extra point!
Ken
yeah like physics, chemistry and maths, they are my most favorite.
yamini
than you can go free of cost
Arush
Yes, That's right!
Ken
how
yamini
Oh! Free of cost?
Ken
hello yamini nice to meet you
Burak
wow from NASA ur so lucky
FNAF
hello yamini nice to meet you
block
what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
mrunal
pls elaborate
sakshi
the clear defination.I know that.
Abdul
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
It has been proven that there are water molecules on Mars but not enough that most lifeforms could thrive upon.
Ariana
There are huge amounts of water in the ice caps and under the surface. The surface and chemistry indicate that Mars had cosiderable amounts of water on its surface in the past.
Julius
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
guys listen we cannot ever find aliens because our technology is not that great.we don't know whether they exist or no because our universe is very large . Just for an example;even if we spot out aliens we cannot reach there because lot of time must have been passed and before us reaching there
Samuel
what if their species or existence might get vanished our have been extinct!! getting my point
Samuel
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
Practice Key Terms 6

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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