I was never good at leaving home. I was terrible at it as a child. Sleepovers sent me into fits of anxiety that demonstrated themselves in barely bent up tears and that particularly child like, wild eyed look of fear.

As I have gotten older I can articulate that look in words. It’s rooted in the worry that somehow life will change and I will not be able to cope if I am not in familiar surroundings and surrounded by those I love.

Well, we know how well that works. I am actually in control of so few things.

That’s pretty much why I am a born again, believing-in-a-God-almighty-residing-in-the-Heavens kind of woman.

It’s also why I find understanding the physics of Heaven or at least the known Universe worthwhile if not downright necessary.

Cosmology (not to be confused with cosmetology of which I am also a proponent) is the stuff of mathematicians, physicists and philosophers. The details of most of the research is beyond my comprehension. A lot of what we know is based on theory that explains a very limited view of the universe. It’s based on what we can see from the little blue dot we live on. It’s truly a remarkable blue dot from which to observe, but it is still a very, very, very small part of what we seek to evaluate when its our universe you are talking about. That doesn’t diminish the science, its just places our knowledge and our efforts to stretch that understanding further, into context.

I believe in context.

I also believe in order and even if there is very little detail I can understand in the research intricacies, the overall picture of order and structure that cosmologists seem to hone in on in our far flung, possibly expanding, possibly receding universe, seems extremely reasonable to me

Take the Milky Way.

nightsky2a

It is the galaxy that contains our solar system. You see it when looking up at the night sky, the milky band of light that arcs across.We have come a long way from thinking that it was formed by milk spilt by Hera while suckling Heracles. We now know that it’s part of a binary system that includes the Andromeda Galaxy. The Milky Was and Andromeda galaxies are a set of of giant spiral galaxies belonging to a group of 50 closely bound galaxies known as the Local Group which itself is a part of Virgo Supercluster.

(Yeah. I can’t get my head wrapped around that either, but isn’t it exciting to just try and think about.)

Our galaxy is made up a bar-shaped core region which is surrounded by a disk made of up of gas, dust and stars. The gas, dust and stars are organized in roughly logarithmic spiral arm structures.

(Logarithmic spiral arms are the same kind of spiral that you see in the chambered nautilus and climactic pressure systems. They are a part of a repeated pattern in nature.)

The key is that there is structure. Just like their is structure to our bodies, and cells, and the internet, the Heavens that hold our little tiny solar system in a farm flung ‘arm’ of our galaxy also has structure. There is order throughout the universe.

Sort of like when I would express my worry and fears to my Dad upon leaving to bed in another friend’s house, or later across the sea recalling his words:”Remember, when you look up at the sky, no matter where you are, I will be looking up at the same Heaven.”

And now, we know even more about that Heaven and our place in it, namely our address, Your galactic address is Earth, Third Planet from the sun in the Solar system, Milky Way Galaxy, Laniakea.

There is new information on that Laniakea part.

A team led by Brent Tully, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, compiled the velocities of 8000 galaxies in an attempt to infer the gravitational landscape of our local Universe. And once they were done calculating, they redrew our universe map.

(Think Google Earth, just as informative, but way more vast in its coverage.)

In the process they found the supercluster of galaxies that includes the Milky Way is 100 times bigger in volume and mass than previously thought,

The cosmologists already knew that galaxies tend to huddle in groups called clusters and the regions where these clusters are densely packed are known as superclusters. Superclusters are structural elements in the universe but nobody knew where exactly they ended or started.The researchers used an algorithm to translate the velocities they calculated we talked about above into a three-dimensional field of galaxy flow and density, attempting to define the boundary lines of the superclusters. Guess what they found out!?!?

Their map shows flow lines down which galaxies creep under the effect of gravity in their local region. Based on this, the team defined the edge of a supercluster as the boundary at which these flow lines diverge. On one side of the line, galaxies flow towards one gravitational center, beyond it, they flow towards another. “It’s like water dividing at a watershed, where it flows either to the left or right of a height of land,” says Tully.

I don’t presume to understand this fully. But what I do get out of it is that there is structure and order in the universe. Even the researchers say this isn’t the final word on superclusters. My guess is there will be no last word on the universe during the lifetime of our blue planet and the sun that fuels us. in a lot of ways that doesn’t matter. I’m satisfied knowing that life is consistent. I feel a certain kind of privilege to have a glimpse of how beautifully true and accurate the universe and everything in it is.  I am in a knowable,  cosmological neighborhood, even if it is vast and almost unfathomable to my small mind. It’s that especially, knowing how small my part is in it that all makes such perfect sense.

For as small as I am, the governing force of Heaven (and the Creator) is always around me.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Prov 25:2

For a beautiful video and many thanks to Nature for giving me the opportunity (read permission) to use this: