Laniakea

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Laniakea by MC

It is not as if one needs a daily reminder that in the cosmic scheme of things we are so insignificant that we are not even insignificant. Reading and watching a story on Nature about the Milky Way’s new address I was made aware yet again about our laughable inconsequentiality. That has been the predominant theme of my lifelong realization. So nothing new there. But in so much as it offers a breathtaking new context to that inconsequentiality I think this is a terrific story.

Apart from prompting me to do a visual representation of the new supercluster called Laniakea, which in Hawaiian means ‘immeasurable heaven’, it gave me a new staggering incomprehensible scale to throw about in conversations. The size of this supercluster at whose fringes resides our Milky Way, according to Brent Tully, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and his team, is beyond comprehension, of course. The Nature story by Elizabeth Gibney quotes Tully and his team to say that Laniakea is 520 million light years across and contains the mass of 100 million billion suns. If that is the size of just one supercluster in our part of the universe, it is completely pointless to try and grasp the totality of it all. Trust Steven Weinberg to put it aptly when he said, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

If you still don’t know what a light year is, it is the distance light travels in a single year at the speed of about 300,000 kilometers or 1860,000 miles a second in vacuum. If it helps you, in a year light covers about 9,461,000,000,000 kms or 5,878,000,000,000 miles. For a beam of  light to travel across the entire length of the supercluster it would take 520 million years at that speed. Need I even tell you the distance in miles or kilometers? It became pointless a long time ago.

I have linked my artwork to the Nature video.

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About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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