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Hubble at work.

Photograph of Edwin Hubble, adjusting instrument settings as he peers through a finder-scope on the 100-inch telescope on Mt. Wilson.
Edwin Hubble at the 100-inch telescope on Mount Wilson. (credit: NASA)

Hubble’s findings are enormously important, for they indicate that the universe is both isotropic    and homogeneous    —it looks the same in all directions, and a large volume of space at any given redshift or distance is much like any other volume at that redshift. If that is so, it does not matter what section of the universe we observe (as long as it’s a sizable portion): any section will look the same as any other.

Hubble’s results—and many more that have followed in the nearly 100 years since then—imply not only that the universe is about the same everywhere (apart from changes with time) but also that aside from small-scale local differences, the part we can see around us is representative of the whole. The idea that the universe is the same everywhere is called the cosmological principle    and is the starting assumption for nearly all theories that describe the entire universe (see The Big Bang ).

Without the cosmological principle, we could make no progress at all in studying the universe. Suppose our own local neighborhood were unusual in some way. Then we could no more understand what the universe is like than if we were marooned on a warm south-sea island without outside communication and were trying to understand the geography of Earth. From our limited island vantage point, we could not know that some parts of the planet are covered with snow and ice, or that large continents exist with a much greater variety of terrain than that found on our island.

Hubble merely counted the numbers of galaxies in various directions without knowing how far away most of them were. With modern instruments, astronomers have measured the velocities and distances of hundreds of thousands of galaxies, and so built up a meaningful picture of the large-scale structure of the universe. In the rest of this section, we describe what we know about the distribution of galaxies, beginning with those that are nearby.

The local group

The region of the universe for which we have the most detailed information is, as you would expect, our own local neighborhood. It turns out that the Milky Way Galaxy is a member of a small group of galaxies called, not too imaginatively, the Local Group    . It is spread over about 3 million light-years and contains more than 54 members. There are three large spiral galaxies (our own, the Andromeda galaxy, and M33), two intermediate ellipticals, and many dwarf ellipticals and irregular galaxies.

New members of the Local Group are still being discovered. We mentioned in The Milky Way Galaxy a dwarf galaxy only about 80,000 light-years from Earth and about 50,000 light-years from the center of the galaxy that was discovered in 1994 in the constellation of Sagittarius. (This dwarf is actually venturing too close to the much larger Milky Way and will eventually be consumed by it.)

Many of the recent discoveries have been made possible by the new generation of automated, sensitive, wide-field surveys, such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, that map the positions of millions of stars across most of the visible sky. By digging into the data with sophisticated computer programs, astronomers have turned up numerous tiny, faint dwarf galaxies that are all but invisible to the eye even in those deep telescopic images. These new findings may help solve a long-standing problem: the prevailing theories of how galaxies form predicted that there should be more dwarf galaxies around big galaxies like the Milky Way than had been observed—and only now do we have the tools to find these faint and tiny galaxies and begin to compare the numbers of them with theoretical predictions.

Questions & Answers

What kind of weather does Venus experience?
Michael Reply
why are the hyperlinks not working?
Gregory Reply
If the atmosphere blocks the view of Venus' surface, what am I seeing that looks like craters?
Michael Reply
clouds?
Michele
If the surface of Venus is shrouded by white clouds, making it impossible to see the surface, what looks like craters when view the planet?
Michael Reply
I don't Know! perhaps the mountains?
Michele
my question is if the surface of Venus is shining y not our earth
Tahir
when we look at venus we can't see any crater like things... check it once again
RIEM
and venus shines because of the clouds that are made up sulpher dioxide and sulphuric acid droplets. and the clouds are so dense. the case of earth is different
RIEM
also because of Venus's 70% albedo phenamenon
Shivam
and plus it reflects 70 percent of its light back into space earth don't shine because it's not a cloudy planet and its farther than the sun
americantuber
can I become an astronaut without taking mathematics as a subject in 11th class
UNIVERSAL Reply
If the surface of Venus is shrouded by white clouds, making it impossible to see the surface, what looks like craters? Are these atmospheric storms?
Michael
can a death of a massive star be the new big bang
Neeta Reply
No it might be a supernova. The big bang was much more massive.
Nick
It created the universe as we know it
Nick
the big bang is just a new beginning
Neeta
the death of a gigantic star makes it possible for a new begging
Neeta
Only in the local area of space
Nick
so many smaller universes are created and destroyed
Neeta
i think it created a supernova!
Michele
you still think? I am sure I created one supernova of my own
Neeta
I'm sure you did
Nick
neeta the death of a massive star could lead to an explosion that leads to a super nova and when the supernova explodes it becomes a nebula like messier 1
americantuber
a supernova remnant
americantuber
what is means by earthbound
Satyam Reply
you are earthbound, arnt we all earthbound? except the ISS etc.
Collins
I don't agree we may be earthbound because of our gross body/physical body...but there is also a subtle body which does not limit us to earthly existence
Neeta
good questions, as humans our habitat is earth, we are bound to this and have to alter ourselves to stay alive off land and outside the atmosphere, do you not agree? I'd guess you could also say the moon is earthbound. anything earthbound is restricted to earth. hope this helps, love your question
Collins
how do you describe astral projection
Neeta
Astral projection is spiritual. I'm assuming Satyam was talking about the physical world.
TheDirtyGhost
ah yes spiritually we are bound only to what we chose, like nothing, I like to think that way
Collins
anyone here also participating in seti@home?
dreamer
what is seti?
Mahesh
what has extraterrestrial entity got to do with this why @seti project..we are discussing human existence on earth and beyond earth
Neeta
please join me at the cosmic Diner where all your intergalactic dreams come true.
Alba
I was just thinking what if somebody ignorantly mistaken a cosmic microwave Background with a conventional microwave we be in a lot of trouble.
Alba
don't kno
dreamer
You mean the Restaurant at the end of the Universe...right we can come back and visit again but not sure of the mode of payment
Neeta
yeah I'm already heading there
dreamer
how to read stars
Amresh Reply
you don't
Max
astrology i guess
Uttam
astrologer is the study of star systems and constellations...but astronomy is the study of formation of universes multiverses birth and evolu of stars
Neeta
cool
Uttam
what is astronomy
babul Reply
study of formation evolution and the death of star star systems and galaxies
Neeta
astronomy is the study of universe
UNIVERSAL
astronomy and physics are basically the same except physics is the study of the motion and behavior of the universe
americantuber
What is 12 constellation of zodiac and why it is important to study astrology
MUHIBULLAH
And also what is main purpose of these 12 constellation of zodiac in astronomy
MUHIBULLAH
astronomy and astrology with two different things
Deja
it Is the study of universe and of life speaking generally! i think!
Michele
universe is born 13,7 miliardi of years with big Bang if i remember well! but there are also other theories for the universe, speaking generally! i remember so!
Michele
universe is actually about 13.7 billion years old
Nick
is astrology like astronomy
debjani Reply
Astrology is a lower dimension.. astronomy is much more vast and multidimensional
Neeta
yes.. astrology is about constellations only, and astronomy is about all stars, galaxies, gravity, dark matter, dark energy.. etc everything including astrology
Mahesh
can you become an astronaut without taking mathematics as a subject in 11th class
UNIVERSAL
I was reading the chapter on Cosmic Microwave Background. And, I can not seem to find it now. If anyone could help me find that portion of the Astronomy Textbook I would really appreciate it. AZ
Alba Reply
Where or which chapter discusses Cosmic Microwave Background?
Alba
29.4
Andrew
29 the big bang ch 29.4
Andrew
yes
pratham
interesting
Orlando
what's cold dark matter?
pratham Reply
Dark matter even the science community is not sure what it is...!!! That's why they have some of the smartest math wizards around to try to figure out that puzzle!
Gregory
How are Roche Worlds formed?
AlteredEdge Reply
In need to read some books about Astronomy so how can in get it actually leg live in Ethiopia can uh help me with that?
Mom Reply
I am sri Sharan .m .what is my best favourable numbers
Madhesh Reply
how can we know it
sruthi
😂😂
Rango
bahut hard
Rango
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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