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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

is their life on mars
Darius Reply
what is the origin of the universe
Ummisalmah Reply
Big Bang
Michele
what is it first cause
Ummisalmah
is its existence necessary
Ummisalmah
from where the first energy came during big bang?
Bysali
the steady state theory may be true too
Shaunak
Did there is any life probability on titan (largest moon of saturn)
sanjay Reply
Yes, there could be a possibility of existance of life because Titan is full icy mountains which are one form of water and. could assist in microbial growth
Astronomy
although life is not yet detected on it, it is theorized that when the sun starts its red giant phase, the temperatures on titan,enceladus,etc will become suitable for life and they may develop an atmosphere too
Shaunak
What is 5 dimension
Sourav Reply
hi
Danbirnianz
yo!!!
Bennett
5 dimension is truth
Bennett
form - order - structure - society - TRUTH
Bennett
nice topic! i reread this.
TPonder
why not string theory called a theory of everything
Harsh Reply
Perhaps because string theory is useless when discussing "things" like music theory, or morality and justice. Therefore cannot be a theory of "everything."
Bennett
why the energy cost
MASTER Reply
what is sagittarius
Noorzad Reply
what is gimine
Noorzad
Black hole of Milky way galaxy
deepanshu
thanks a lot for your sympath and information
Noorzad
thanks a lot for your sympath and information Deepanshu
Noorzad
Hello: My friends, How do you do?
zin
(Sagittarius A) is a name of black hole ,present center of Milky Way
Harsh
this question is for atheists what created humans , how did they evolve
ilyes Reply
not entirely sure what this question has to do with Atheism but, firstly, there is no "who", life evolved in multiple paths, humans are simply one of those paths. The process of how life evolves is a very complicated but very well researched field of biology, so it would be worth doing research...
ben
...into that field, evolution isnt disputed. However, the direct path from the common ancestor (that we share with chimps) has not yet been completed. But know for sure that humans didn't just magically appear one day, it was over millions of years of evolution
ben
(I must ask though, what has this got to do with Atheism?)
ben
idk i thought believers will say god created us
ilyes
there are many types of believers one say that god created consciousness, one say we just magically appeared out of nowhere, and one say universe was created by God(all based on people I have met so far)
Tanmay
Hey
Asim
Tanmay!
Asim
Hello
Asim
hello Asim
Tanmay
hi my friends asim and tqnmay we hhave lern okay
Eyiba
did u forget me!!
Amit
Could God have created evolution? Nope, no way, too complicated.
Bennett
yes god can do that in theory
Tanmay
@Eyiba hello
Tanmay
@Amit seems like that XD
Tanmay
haha🤣🤣
Amit
This question is for theists, what created God?
Anthony
hi
UFOLIENS
God was begotten, not made. More of a concept than an entity.
Bennett
hello
Stuart
Hi🙂🙂
Harsh
Hi🙂🙂
Harsh
Hi🙂🙂
Harsh
Hi🙂🙂
Harsh
we came by God not real old stinky water
Bryant
Here people don't have a goal to become astronomers ,rather they want to become astrologers,with this mindset,there won't be any progress in this void earth as Feynman says in his book "if I could explain it to the average person (like how astrologers do) I wouldn't have been worth the nobel price".
Akshar
God did not create the universe.. Humans created god, possibly to fill in an unwanted reality no1 wants to believe because life can be a struggle for most.
Collins
astronomy and astrology diverged from the same concept, to deny either one is to deny them both.
Bennett
may i ask a question
Raluca Reply
yes why not you don't need to ask anyone for permission
Tanmay
sure, why not?
ca
-Why there are moons in every planet but there's note in mercure ?
Amal Reply
Well with mercury Venus also does not have moon.The reason that Mercury is not having moons is since it is too close to sun and thus if it would have any moon orbiting it ,then the moon will eventually attracted by sun due to it's high gravitational force whereas mercury has the lowest gravity
Anjali
The gravitational force of mercury is lowest in solar system and it won't be able to hold a moon in it's orbit
Anjali
Nice explanation
Asim
Thank you brother
Anjali
Did general theory of relativity leads us to singularity?
Asim
yes the general theory of relativity leads us to singularity
Anjali
But Einstein was not a believer of big bang. And singularity lead us to big bang?
Asim
yes Einstein was really astonished by his mathmatical answers that came fron his equations (this is what almost every one says)
Tanmay
and there are many theories stating how our universe came in which one is big bang
Tanmay
Einstein was against the fact that anything can come from nothing that our big bang says and he also thought that singularity (infinite mass in zero volume) can not be real(also what most people say)
Tanmay
also what most people say means that there is no evidence that he was against all these things
Tanmay
Okay
Asim
Tanmay
Asim
anything else
Tanmay
Do you believe that grand unified theory can be complete in future?
Asim
Do you believe that grand unified theory will be complete in future?
Asim
yes I do believe in it as I also believe big bang
Tanmay
Well i don't believe in big bang like Einstein didn't.
Asim
do you believe in wormholes are real?
Amit
@Asim then what do you think our universe came from or how it started
Tanmay
Well it's a myth.
Asim
@Amit I believe wormholes are real
Tanmay
It came from nothing Tanmay.
Asim
Even I believe in wormholes
Anjali
So Tanmay you must believe in baby universes.?
Asim
I believe that they are many things we can't explain or give prove but they are theories,imaginations and they are the basics for new discoveries
Anjali
So ,it is useless to argue over them
Anjali
But we should try to find new possibilities if we don't believe in old ones
Anjali
you are right @anjali
Amit
what is dark matter?
Amit
can a star turn into planet?
Amit
I have doubt on how Stephen hawking posses ideas of black hole by himself?
Enceladus
why do people believe in God and how are humans made
ilyes
No amit star can't turn into planet.
Asim
you are wrong asim
Amit
also Asim, please tell me why you think the big bang is a myth?
ben
@Asim what do you mean by it came from nothing what came from nothing
Tanmay
@Asik I don't know what baby universe is if you mean early universe then the question doesn't make sense
Tanmay
@Amit starts can become cold enough for us to live at high altitude but their surface will still be made of plasma
Tanmay
@Amit dark matter is a type of substance that doesn't interact with normal matter and also gives galaxies enough mass to hold its stars rather than to fly out by its rotation
Tanmay
Sorry Asim for wrong spelling of your name
Tanmay
@Tanmay thanks for your explanation
Amit
@Tanmay but a star can turn into a planet, but this transformation only happens for a very particular type of star known as a brown dwarf.
Amit
oh, somebody has google 😂
ben
I will check and then I will tell you if it's true or not thanks for the question
Tanmay
I will check as it is really wierd but thanks for your question
Tanmay
(oh no I was joking hahaha, Amit just took the definition that you see first on google and pasted)
ben
Tanmay baby universes is when something fell in black hole it's went into another universe called baby universe according to Stephen hawking. Well i don't know weather to believe it or not.
Asim
Amit brown dwarf are not planet or stars they have their own classification these are basically failed star, not massive enough to power hydrogen fission reaction.
Asim
ahh, didn't he use that to explain where "information" goes? because recently a paper was published stating that information may actually be re-emitted by the black hole as 'encoded' hawking radiation
ben
(so it may not be going to another universe, but instead coming back into our own)
ben
Hawking radiation are basically the the radiation emitted by black hole boundaries called event horizon.
Asim
@ben someone asked me this question today so i asked here and also google it..
Amit
So re-emitting doesn't make scene.
Asim
every black hole contains a singularity?
Amit
Yep absolutely.
Asim
ohhh, no worries dude, and yeah hawking radiation is a consequence of both quantum mechanics and relativity, really cool. And look it up Asim, it's a really interesting read
ben
but a singularity is a point in space where there is a mass with a infinte density. the problem is that infinities never exist in real world.
Amit
Ben it's really difficult to relate quantum mechanics to relativity.
Asim
Dude if you have done nobel price is waiting for you. (haha)
Asim
consequence of both quantum mechanics and relativity.!!!
Amit
Amit read theory of relativity and black hole singularities in Google. Everything will be cleared.
Asim
🤣🤣🤣
Amit
ok i will read this
Amit
hahahahaha, yeah that's true I'm being lazy as hell there haha, I mean more it's something relates the big and small (it's cool to see quantum phenomena having a direct effect on something predicted by relativity)
ben
(if a GUT is found I genuinely doubt I'd be able to comprehend the maths hahaha, maybe a long a way down the road but not yet)
ben
ben you are nominated for nobel as well as oscar for your thoughts..(hahaha)
Amit
what's you thinks about gravitational waves gentlemen?
Amit
hahahaha, and I love what I know so far but honestly dude, I've learnt essentially nothing about gravitational waves at university yet, I'm hoping that's going to be next year
ben
I would love to ask someone what the effects of constructive ans destructive interference of gravitational waves would be. Would total destructive interference lead to black holes?
ben
good luck for your next year... ben
Amit
if such things happen that's gonna be amazing.....
Amit
eyy thank you dude, likewise man, wish you all the best for your endeavours
ben
eyy cheers dude, likewise for you man, wishing all the best for you
ben
thanks buddy..
Amit
💝❤
Amit
(my bad, sometimes my phone wont show the first message as being sent, so I send another just in case)
ben
Gravitational Waves could help us travel faster in the space, if we are to set on an adventure like the one in The Interstellar, lol. Just saying
Awesh
what do u think created the universe
ilyes
m curious
ilyes
I believe in the theory where it states that our universe came from death of another universe and after our universe's death another universe will come from it
Tanmay
@Amit if that's what baby universe is then
Tanmay
my current understanding of universe and black holes, I would have to disbelief it
Tanmay
@Asim @Amit there is a feild in physics where we study about the physics of those objects who have intermediate size and follow some rules of quantum physics and relativity
Tanmay
@Ben what is full form of GUT?
Tanmay
@Ben I have never seen anyone spotting interference with gravitational waves but most of the people think that it will just be like interference in waves like light or sound. Do that means it's amplitude will change and will not create and black holes or stuff
Tanmay
@Awesh yes many people in youtube(some have good degrees and are astrophysicist) say that warping space is possible using gravitational waves
Tanmay
Do you all believe in multiverse
Anjali
I believe in multiverse
Tanmay
The relation between quantum physics and relativity is like sky and the land (hahaha)
Amit
what about the air between sky(let's assume height of clouds is sky) and land. It basically means that there is a field like that you should google it up
Tanmay
it's the most mysterious field and we almost know nothing about it. there are no laws(like Newton's law of motion) or something like that
Tanmay
The most undifined and fascinating theory is string theory what do u think about it?
Amit
how can I learned quantum mechanics
Harsh
what is the model about the earth being the center of the universe called?
Lordgy Reply
geocentric model
SCIENCE
I hope you got your answer.
SCIENCE
heliocentric universe
Jason
you are wrong Jason skerbinc
SCIENCE
in heliocentric model sun is at the center of the universe
Tanmay
what is black hole and stellar black hole
azeb Reply
does Millikan consider electron axial spin in his discovery of electrons mass using q/m ratio ? If No how it is possible that he found rest mass of electron (9×10^31 Kg) ?
Anurag Reply
how did light from up
Sourav Reply
Before there stars , there was matter and radiation . Before there were neutral atoms ,there was an ionized plasma ,and when that plasma froms neutral atoms , those allow the Universe to deliver the earliest light we see today .......
Apsara
how to know the distance of a star
Sourav Reply
What is time
Sourav
Technical Infinite Measurement of Evolution
Doc
not by the book but the simplicity of word play ....
Doc
to calculate the distance of a star we use parallax method (as far as my school has taught me).
Tanmay
in this method we see the star from one point and then after traveling some distance perpendicular to the distance of star we see it again. With this we can make a triangle and then it's median will give our distance
Tanmay
And time is just a way of defining when an event happened
Tanmay
oh and we will know the distance of all the 3 sides of triangle formed above if we multiply the time taken by light with speed of light and the third side will be known to us as it is dependent on our will
Tanmay
what is space fabric
Harsh
parallex method
Harsh
what is spacetime velocity?
Amit
Hi i am Gurashish
Gurashish
hello
Samuel
Hi
Gurashish
perhaps we calculate the time that light take from planet Earth to the star in question! the speed of light is 300000 km in a second! we Have to do a calculated! I hope it is right! it is very complicated!
Michele
Parallax method
Awesh
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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