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A map of the Superclusters and voids nearest to Earth

A supercluster is a large group of [1] smaller galaxy clusters or galaxy groups, which is among the largest-known structures of the cosmos. The Milky Way is part of the Local Group galaxy cluster (that contains more than 54 galaxies), which in turn is part of the Laniakea Supercluster.[2] This supercluster spans over 500 million light-years, while the Local Group spans over 10 million light-years.[1] The number of superclusters in the observable universe is estimated to be 10 million.[3]

Galaxies are grouped into clusters instead of being dispersed randomly. Clusters of galaxies, in turn, are grouped together to form superclusters. Typically, superclusters contain dozens of individual clusters throughout an area of space about 150 million light-years across. Unlike clusters, most superclusters are not bound together by gravity. The component clusters are generally shifting away from each other due to the Hubble flow.

The Milky Way galaxy falls within the Local Group, which is a poor and irregular cluster of galaxies. Poor clusters may contain only a few dozen galaxies, as compared to rich clusters with hundreds or even thousands. The Local Group is in the Local Supercluster (also known as the Virgo Supercluster), which has a diameter of 100 million light-years. The Local Supercluster contains a total of about 1015 times the mass of the Sun.

The biggest cluster in the observable universe is called the Great Attractor. Its gravity is so strong that the Local Supercluster, including the Milky Way, is moving in a direction towards it at a rate of several hundred kilometers per second. Speeds at this cosmic scale are measured relative to the Hubble flow frame of reference. The biggest supercluster outside the local universe is the Perseus–Pegasus Filament. It contains the Perseus supercluster and it spans about a billion light-years, making it one of the largest known structures in the universe.

Distribution: cosmic voids and sheets

Research has tried to understand the way superclusters are arranged in space. Maps are used to display the positions of 1.6 million galaxies. Three-dimensional maps are used to further understand the positions of these superclusters. To map them three-dimensionally, the position of the galaxy in the sky as well as the galaxy's redshift are used for calculation. The galaxy's redshift is used with Hubble's law to determine its position in three-dimensional space.

It was discovered from those maps that superclusters of galaxies are not spread uniformly across the universe but they seem to lie along filaments. Maps reveal huge voids where there are extremely few galaxies. Some dim galaxies or hydrogen clouds can be found in some voids, but most galaxies are found in sheets between the voids. The voids themselves are often spherical but the superclusters are not. They can range from being 100 million to 400 million light-years in diameter. The pattern of sheets and voids contains information about how galaxy clusters formed in the early universe.

There is a sponge analogy used often that compares a sponge to the pattern of clusters of galaxies in the universe – the holes are the voids and the other parts are the locations of the superclusters.


The Abell 901/902 supercluster is located a little over two billion light-years from Earth.[4]

The existence of superclusters indicates that the galaxies in the Universe are not uniformly distributed; most of them are drawn together in groups and clusters, with groups containing up to some dozens of galaxies and clusters up to several thousand galaxies. Those groups and clusters and additional isolated galaxies in turn form even larger structures called superclusters.

Their existence was first postulated by George Abell in his 1958 Abell catalogue of galaxy clusters. He called them "second-order clusters", or clusters of clusters.[5]

Superclusters form massive structures of galaxies, called "filaments", "supercluster complexes", "walls" or "sheets", that may span between several hundred million light-years to 10 billion light-years, covering more than 5% of the observable universe. These are the largest known structures to date. Observations of superclusters can give information about the initial condition of the universe, when these superclusters were created. The directions of the rotational axes of galaxies within superclusters may also give insight and information into the early formation process of galaxies in the history of the Universe.[6]

Interspersed among superclusters are large voids of space where few galaxies exist. Superclusters are frequently subdivided into groups of clusters called galaxy groups and clusters.

List of superclusters

Laniakea Supercluster

Galaxy supercluster Data Notes
Laniakea Supercluster
  • z = 0.000
  • Length = 153 Mpc (500 million light-years)
The Laniakea Supercluster is the supercluster that contains the Virgo Cluster, Local Group, and by extension on the latter, our galaxy; the Milky Way.[2]
Virgo Supercluster
  • z= 0.000
  • Length = 33 Mpc (110 million light-years)
It contains the Local Group with our galaxy, the Milky Way. It also contains the Virgo Cluster near its center, and is sometimes called the Local Supercluster. It is thought to contain over 47,000 galaxies.

In 2014, the newly announced Laniakea Supercluster subsumed the Virgo Supercluster, which became a component of the new supercluster.[7]

Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster It is composed of two lobes, sometimes also referred to as superclusters, or sometimes the entire supercluster is referred to by these other two names
  • Hydra Supercluster
  • Centaurus Supercluster

In 2014, the newly announced Laniakea Supercluster subsumed the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster, which became a component of the new supercluster.[7]

Pavo-Indus Supercluster

In 2014, the newly announced Laniakea Supercluster subsumed the Pavo-Indus Supercluster, which became a component of the new supercluster.[7]

Southern Supercluster

Includes Fornax Cluster (S373), Dorado and Eridanus clouds.

Saraswati Supercluster Distance = 4000 Million light years (1.2 Gigaparsecs)

Length = 652 Million Light-year

The Saraswati Supercluster consists of 43 massive galaxy clusters such as Abell 2361 and has a mass of about 2 x 1016 and is seen in the Pisces constellation

Nearby superclusters

Galaxy supercluster Data Notes
Perseus-Pisces Supercluster
Coma Supercluster Forms most of the CfA Homunculus, the center of the CfA2 Great Wall galaxy filament
Sculptor Superclusters SCl 9
Hercules Superclusters SCl 160
Leo Supercluster SCl 93
Ophiuchus Supercluster
  • 17h 10m −22°
  • cz=8500–9000 km/s (centre)
  • 18 Mpc x 26 Mpc
Forming the far wall of the Ophiuchus Void, it may be connected in a filament, with the Pavo-Indus-Telescopium Supercluster and the Hercules Supercluster. This supercluster is centered on the cD cluster Ophiuchus Cluster, and has at least two more galaxy clusters, four more galaxy groups, several field galaxies, as members.[8]
Shapley Supercluster
  • z=0.046.(650 Mly away)
The second supercluster found, after the Local Supercluster.

Distant superclusters

Galaxy supercluster Data Notes
Pisces-Cetus Supercluster
Boötes Supercluster SCl 138
Horologium Supercluster
z=0.063 (700 Mly)
Length = 550 Mly
The entire supercluster is referred to as the Horologium-Reticulum Supercluster
Corona Borealis Supercluster
Columba Supercluster
Aquarius Supercluster
Aquarius B Supercluster
Aquarius-Capricornus Supercluster
Aquarius-Cetus Supercluster
Bootes A Supercluster
Caelum Supercluster
z=0.126 (1.4 Gly)
Length = 910 Mly
The largest galaxy supercluster
Draco Supercluster
Draco-Ursa Major Supercluster
Fornax-Eridanus Supercluster
Grus Supercluster
Leo A Supercluster
Leo-Sextans Supercluster
Leo-Virgo Supercluster SCl 107
Microscopium Supercluster SCl 174
Pegasus-Pisces Supercluster SCl 3
Perseus-Pisces Supercluster SCl 40
Pisces-Aries Supercluster
Ursa Majoris Supercluster
Virgo-Coma Supercluster SCl 111

Incredibly distant superclusters

Galaxy supercluster Data Notes
Lynx Supercluster z=1.27 Discovered in 1999[10] (as ClG J0848+4453, a name now used to describe the western cluster, with ClG J0849+4452 being the eastern one),[11] it contains at least two clusters RXJ 0848.9+4452 (z=1.26) and RXJ 0848.6+4453 (z=1.27) . At the time of discovery, it became the most distant known supercluster.[12] Additionally, seven smaller groups of galaxies are associated with the supercluster.[13]
SCL @ 1338+27 at z=1.1



A rich supercluster with several galaxy clusters was discovered around an unusual concentration of 23 QSOs at z=1.1 in 2001. The size of the complex of clusters may indicate a wall of galaxies exists there, instead of a single supercluster. The size discovered approaches the size of the CfA2 Great Wall filament. At the time of the discovery, it was the largest and most distant supercluster beyond z=0.5 [14][15]
SCL @ 1604+43 at z=0.9 z=0.91 This supercluster at the time of its discovery was the largest supercluster found so deep into space, in 2000. It consisted of two known rich clusters and one newly discovered cluster as a result of the study that discovered it. The then known clusters were Cl 1604+4304 (z=0.897) and Cl 1604+4321 (z=0.924), which then known to have 21 and 42 known galaxies respectively. The then newly discovered cluster was located at 16h 04m 25.7s, +43° 14′ 44.7″[16]
SCL @ 0018+16 at z=0.54 in SA26 z=0.54 This supercluster lies around radio galaxy 54W084C (z=0.544) and is composed of at least three large clusters, CL 0016+16 (z=0.5455), RX J0018.3+1618 (z=0.5506), RX J0018.8+1602 .[17]
MS 0302+17



This supercluster has at least three member clusters, the eastern cluster CL 0303+1706, southern cluster MS 0302+1659 and northern cluster MS 0302+1717.[18]


A diagram of Earth's location in the observable Universe and neighbouring superclusters of galaxies. (Click here for smaller image.)

See also


  1. ^ a b Cain, Fraser (4 May 2009). "Local Group". Universe Today. Retrieved 6 December 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Earth's new address: 'Solar System, Milky Way, Laniakea' / Nature
  3. ^ "The Universe within 14 billion Light Years". Atlas of the Universe. Retrieved 6 December 2015. 
  4. ^ "An Intergalactic Heavyweight". ESO Picture of the Week. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Abell, George O. (1958). "The distribution of rich clusters of galaxies. A catalogue of 2,712 rich clusters found on the National Geographic Society Palomar Observatory Sky Survey". The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. 3: 211–88. Bibcode:1958ApJS....3..211A. doi:10.1086/190036. 
  6. ^ Hu, F. X.; et al. (2006). "Orientation of Galaxies in the Local Supercluster: A Review". Astrophysics and Space Science. 302 (1–4): 43–59. arXiv:astro-ph/0508669Freely accessible. Bibcode:2006Ap&SS.302...43H. doi:10.1007/s10509-005-9006-7. 
  7. ^ a b c R. Brent Tully; Helene Courtois; Yehuda Hoffman; Daniel Pomarède (2 September 2014). "The Laniakea supercluster of galaxies". Nature (published 4 September 2014). 513 (7516): 71. arXiv:1409.0880Freely accessible. Bibcode:2014Natur.513...71T. doi:10.1038/nature13674. PMID 25186900. 
  8. ^ Hasegawa, T.; et al. (2000). "Large-scale structure of galaxies in the Ophiuchus region". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 316 (2): 326–344. Bibcode:2000MNRAS.316..326H. doi:10.1046/j.1365-8711.2000.03531.x. 
  9. ^ Postman, M.; Geller, M. J.; Huchra, J. P. (1988). "The dynamics of the Corona Borealis supercluster". Astronomical Journal. 95: 267–83. Bibcode:1988AJ.....95..267P. doi:10.1086/114635. 
  10. ^ Rosati, P.; et al. (1999). "An X-Ray-Selected Galaxy Cluster at z = 1.26". The Astronomical Journal. 118 (1): 76–85. arXiv:astro-ph/9903381Freely accessible. Bibcode:1999AJ....118...76R. doi:10.1086/300934. 
  11. ^ "Lynx Supercluster". SIMBAD. 
  12. ^ Nakata, F.; et al. (2004). Discovery of a large-scale clumpy structure of the Lynx supercluster at z∼1.27. Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union. 2004. Cambridge University Press. pp. 29–33. Bibcode:2004ogci.conf...29N. doi:10.1017/S1743921304000080. ISBN 0-521-84908-X. 
  13. ^ Ohta, K.; et al. (2003). "Optical Identification of the ASCA Lynx Deep Survey: An Association of Quasi-Stellar Objects and a Supercluster at z = 1.3?". The Astrophysical Journal. 598: 210–215. arXiv:astro-ph/0308066Freely accessible. Bibcode:2003ApJ...598..210O. doi:10.1086/378690. 
  14. ^ Tanaka, I. (2004). "Subaru Observation of a Supercluster of Galaxies and QSOS at Z = 1.1". Studies of Galaxies in the Young Universe with New Generation Telescope, Proceedings of Japan-German Seminar, held in Sendai, Japan, July 24–28, 2001. pp. 61–64. Bibcode:2004sgyu.conf...61T. 
  15. ^ Tanaka, I.; Yamada, T.; Turner, E. L.; Suto, Y. (2001). "Superclustering of Faint Galaxies in the Field of a QSO Concentration at z ~ 1.1". The Astrophysical Journal. 547 (2): 521–530. arXiv:astro-ph/0009229Freely accessible. Bibcode:2001ApJ...547..521T. doi:10.1086/318430. 
  16. ^ Lubin, L. M.; et al. (2000). "A Definitive Optical Detection of a Supercluster at z ≈ 0.91". The Astrophysical Journal. 531 (1): L5–L8. arXiv:astro-ph/0001166Freely accessible. Bibcode:2000ApJ...531L...5L. doi:10.1086/312518. PMID 10673401. 
  17. ^ Connolly, A. J.; et al. (1996). "Superclustering at Redshift z = 0.54". The Astrophysical Journal Letters. 473 (2): L67–L70. arXiv:astro-ph/9610047Freely accessible. Bibcode:1996ApJ...473L..67C. doi:10.1086/310395. 
  18. ^ University of Hawaii, "The MS0302+17 Supercluster", Nick Kaiser. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  • Freedman, Roger; Gellar, Robert M.; Kaufmann, William III (2015). "Galaxies". Universe (10th ed.). New York: W.H. Freedman. ISBN 978-1-319-04238-7. 

External links

Media related to Superclusters of galaxies at Wikimedia Commons

  • Overview of local superclusters
  • The Nearest Superclusters
  • Universe family tree: Supercluster
  • Superclusters - Large Scale Structures
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