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Astronomers Reveal Milky Way's Address
Astronomers have mapped the Milky Way's location in the universe to the edge of a supercluster of galaxies called Laniakea.
The supercluster, which means "immense heaven" in Hawaiian, has been mapped out in 3D and contains more than 100,000 galaxies and hundred million billion suns, according to an article in the journal Nature.
Researchers found it would take 500 million years, travelling at the speed of light, to travel from one end of the supercluster to the other.
The study found that galaxies tend to group together, rather than be distributed randomly in the universe, and are connected by a "cosmic web" made from filaments of matter which are tugged by gravity.
Where these intersect, they create superclusters of galaxies which are affected by gravity.
Brent Tully, who lead a team of experts at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, used a new method to map the supercluster which includes our very own Milky Way.
His team calculated the location of 8,000 galaxies in our cosmic neighbourhood by estimating their velocity relative to the expansion of the universe.
A phenomenon known as the Great Attractor - a flat-bottomed gravitational "valley" within the supercluster which is pulling objects towards it - has complicated efforts to understand superclusters for decades, especially determining where one ends and another begins.
It makes calculations about the motion of galaxies difficult because many are drawn into it - in the same way water flows down a slope - even though they are also experiencing the outward force created by the Big Bang.
After studying the Great Attractor, the team has discovered that our supercluster is much bigger than previously thought, and could even be part of an even larger structure.
Mr Tully said: "We probably need to measure to another factor of three in distance to explain our local motion.
"We might find that we have to come up with another name for something larger than we're a part of - we're entertaining that as a real possibility."
The Milky Way, the galaxy which includes our own Solar System, is on the outskirts of Laniakea.