Virgo Supercluster

Last updated on 2 August 2017

The Virgo Supercluster (Virgo SC) or the Local Supercluster (LSC or LS) is a mass concentration of galaxies that contains the Virgo Cluster in addition to the Local Group, which in turn contains the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. At least 100 galaxy groups and clusters are located within its diameter of 33 megaparsecs (110 million light-years). It is one of about 10 million superclusters in the observable universe.

A 2014 study indicates that the Virgo Supercluster is only a lobe of an even greater supercluster, Laniakea, which is centered on the Great Attractor.[2]

Local supercluster-ly.jpg
Local supercluster-ly.jpg


Beginning with the first large sample of nebulae published by William and John Herschel in 1863, it was known that there is a marked excess of nebular fields in the constellation Virgo (near the north galactic pole). In the 1950s, French–American astronomer Gérard Henri de Vaucouleurs was the first to argue that this excess represented a large-scale galaxy-like structure, coining the term "Local Supergalaxy" in 1953, which he changed to "Local Supercluster" (LSC[3]) in 1958. (Harlow Shapley, in his 1959 book Of Stars and Men, suggested the term Metagalaxy.[4]) Debate went on during the 1960s and 1970s as to whether the Local Supercluster (LS) was actually a structure or a chance alignment of galaxies.[5] The issue was resolved with the large redshift surveys of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which convincingly showed the flattened concentration of galaxies along the supergalactic plane.[6]


In a comprehensive 1982 paper, R. Brent Tully presented the conclusions of his research concerning the basic structure of the LS. It consists of two components: an appreciably flattened disk containing two-thirds of the supercluster's luminous galaxies, and a roughly spherical halo containing the remaining one-third.[7] The disk itself is a thin (~1 Mpc) ellipsoid with a long axis / short axis ratio of at least 6 to 1, and possibly as high as 9 to 1.[8] Data released in June 2003 from the 5-year Two-degree-Field Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dF) has allowed astronomers to compare the LS to other superclusters. The LS represents a typical poor (that is, lacking a high density core) supercluster of rather small size. It has one rich galaxy cluster in the center, surrounded by filaments of galaxies and poor groups.[1] The Local Group is located on the outskirts of the LS in a small filament extending from the Fornax Cluster to the Virgo Cluster.[6] The Virgo Supercluster's volume is very approximately 7000 times that of the Local Group or 100 billion times that of the Milky Way. See volumes of similar orders of magnitude.

Galaxy distribution

The number density of galaxies in the LS falls off with the square of the distance from its center near the Virgo Cluster, suggesting that this cluster is not randomly located. Overall, the vast majority of the luminous galaxies (less than absolute magnitude −13) are concentrated in a small number of clouds (groups of galaxy clusters). Ninety-eight percent can be found in the following 11 clouds (given in decreasing order of number of luminous galaxies): Canes Venatici, Virgo Cluster, Virgo II (southern extension), Leo II, Virgo III, Crater (NGC 3672), Leo I, Leo Minor (NGC 2841), Draco (NGC 5907), Antlia (NGC 2997) and NGC 5643. Of the luminous galaxies located in the disk, one third are in the Virgo Cluster, while the remainder are found in the Canes Venatici Cloud and Virgo II Cloud, plus the somewhat insignificant NGC 5643 Group. The luminous galaxies in the halo are also concentrated in a small number of clouds (94% in 7 clouds). This distribution indicates that "most of the volume of the supergalactic plane is a great void."[8] A helpful analogy that matches the observed distribution is that of soap bubbles. Flattish clusters and superclusters are found at the intersection of bubbles, which are large, roughly spherical (on the order of 20–60 Mpc in diameter) voids in space.[9] Long filamentary structures seem to predominate. An example of this is the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster, the nearest supercluster to the LS, which starts at a distance of roughly 30 Mpc and extends to 60 Mpc.[10]


Large-scale dynamics

Since the late 1980s it has been apparent that not only the Local Group, but all matter out to a distance of at least 50 Mpc is experiencing a bulk flow on the order of 600 km/s in the direction of the Norma Cluster (Abell 3627).[11] Lynden-Bell et al. (1988) dubbed the cause of this the "Great Attractor". While astronomers are confident of the velocity of the LS, which has been measured against the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the nature of what is causing it remains poorly understood.

Dark matter

The LS has a total mass M ≈ 1015 M and a total optical luminosity L ≈ 3×1012 L.[1] This yields a mass-to-light ratio of about 300 times that of the solar ratio (M/L = 1), a figure that is consistent with results obtained for other superclusters.[12][13] By comparison, the mass-to-light ratio for the Milky Way is 63.8 assuming a solar absolute magnitude of 4.83,[14] a Milky Way absolute magnitude of −20.9,[15] and a Milky Way mass of 1.25×1012 M.[16] These ratios are one of the main arguments in favor of the presence of large amounts of dark matter in the universe; if dark matter did not exist, a much smaller mass-to-light ratios would be expected.


Virgo Cluster Centaurus A/M83 Group M81 group Maffei Group NGC 1023 Group M101 group NGC 2997 Group Canes Venatici I Group NGC 5033 group Ursa Major Cluster Leo I Group NGC 6744 Group Dorado Group Virgo III Groups NGC 4697 Leo II Groups NGC 7582 Fornax Cluster Eridanus Cluster Local Group Sculptor Group About this image
The Virgo Supercluster in supergalactic coordinates (click on feature names for more information)
NGC 55 Milky Way Large Magellanic Cloud NGC 3109 Messier 31 Messier 33 NGC 247 Circinus Galaxy NGC 5128 NGC 5253 NGC 5102 NGC 5128 Group IC 4662 Messier 83 Virgo Cluster ESO 274-01 NGC 1313 NGC 625 NGC 7793 NGC 4945 NGC 45 NGC 253 Sculptor Group Local Group NGC 1569 NGC 300 IC 342 Maffei Group NGC 404 NGC 784 Maffei I Maffei II Dwingeloo 1 NGC 1560 Messier 81 IC 2574 Messier 82 NGC 3077 NGC 2976 NGC 4605 NGC 6503 NGC 5204 NGC 3738 NGC 4236 NGC 2366 NGC 2403 NGC 4305 NGC 5023 Messier 94 NGC 4244 NGC 4214 NGC 4449 NGC 4395 Canes I Group M81 Group About this image
The nearest galaxy groups projected onto the supergalactic plane (click on feature names for more information)


Earth%27s Location in the Universe.jpg
A diagram of our location in the observable universe. (Click here for larger image.)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Einasto, M.; et al. (December 2007). "The richest superclusters. I. Morphology". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 476 (2): 697–711. Bibcode:2007A&A...476..697E. arXiv:0706.1122Freely accessible. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078037.
  2. ^ R. Brent Tully; Helene Courtois; Yehuda Hoffman; Daniel Pomarède (2 September 2014). "The Laniakea supercluster of galaxies". Nature (published 4 September 2014). 513 (7516): 71–73. Bibcode:2014Natur.513...71T. PMID 25186900. arXiv:1409.0880Freely accessible. doi:10.1038/nature13674.
  3. ^, The Geometry of the Local Supercluster, John P. Huchra, 2007 (accessed 12-12-2008)
  4. ^ Shapley, Harlow Of Stars and Men (1959)
  5. ^ de Vaucouleurs, G. (March 1981). "The Local Supercluster of Galaxies". Bulletin of the Astronomical Society of India. 9: 6 (see note). Bibcode:1981BASI....9....1D.
  6. ^ a b Klypin, Anatoly; et al. (October 2003). "Constrained Simulations of the Real Universe: The Local Supercluster". The Astrophysical Journal. 596 (1): 19–33. Bibcode:2003ApJ...596...19K. arXiv:astro-ph/0107104Freely accessible. doi:10.1086/377574.
  7. ^ Hu, F. X.; et al. (April 2006). "Orientation of Galaxies in the Local Supercluster: A Review". Astrophysics and Space Science. 302 (1–4): 43–59. Bibcode:2006Ap&SS.302...43H. arXiv:astro-ph/0508669Freely accessible. doi:10.1007/s10509-005-9006-7.
  8. ^ a b Tully, R. B. (15 Jun 1982). "The Local Supercluster". Astrophysical Journal. 257 (1): 389–422. Bibcode:1982ApJ...257..389T. doi:10.1086/159999.
  9. ^ Carroll, Bradley; Ostlie, Dale (1996). An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics. New York: Addison-Wesley. p. 1136. ISBN 0-201-54730-9.
  10. ^ Fairall, A. P.; Vettolani, G.; Chincarini, G. (May 1989). "A wide angle redshift survey of the Hydra-Centaurus region". Astronomy and Astrophysics Supplement Series. 78 (2): 270. Bibcode:1989A&AS...78..269F. ISSN 0365-0138.
  11. ^ Plionis, Manolis; Valdarnini, Riccardo (March 1991). "Evidence for large-scale structure on scales about 300/h MPC". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 249: 46–61. Bibcode:1991MNRAS.249...46P. doi:10.1093/mnras/249.1.46.
  12. ^ Small, Todd A.; et al. (Jan 1998). "The Norris Survey of the Corona Borealis Supercluster. III. Structure and Mass of the Supercluster". Astrophysical Journal. 492 (1): 45–56. Bibcode:1998ApJ...492...45S. arXiv:astro-ph/9708153Freely accessible. doi:10.1086/305037.
  13. ^ Heymans, Catherine; et al. (April 2008). "The dark matter environment of the A901 abell A901/902 supercluster: a weak lensing analysis of the HST STAGES survey". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 385 (3): 1431–1442. Bibcode:2008MNRAS.385.1431H. arXiv:0801.1156Freely accessible. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.12919.x.
  14. ^ Williams, D. R. (2004). "Sun Fact Sheet". NASA. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  15. ^ Jerry Coffey. "Absolute Magnitude". Retrieved 2010-04-09.
  16. ^ McMillan, Paul J. (July 2011), "Mass models of the Milky Way", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 414 (3): 2446–2457, Bibcode:2011MNRAS.414.2446M, arXiv:1102.4340Freely accessible, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.18564.x

External links

  • The Atlas of the Universe, a website created by astrophysicist Richard Powell that shows maps of our local universe on a number of different scales (similar to above maps).

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