Animation: Fly Through Thousands of Galaxies in 3-D

When you watch the animation above, if you’re anything like me, two things will happen. First, you’ll start humming the Star Trek theme song (preferably not aloud), and second, you’ll be astonished by the enormity of this small slice of universe.

This recently released animation is a 3-D fly-through of what’s called the G15 field, mapped by the Galaxy and Mass Assembly survey project. Peering deep into the southern and equatorial skies, the project’s goal is to understand how galaxies are organized and how those shapes and structures evolve over cosmic timescales.

On large scales, galaxies tend to line up and form filaments. Those strands then twist themselves into an immense cosmic web. Between the strands are voids, or regions of mostly empty space. Or so we thought. Earlier this week, astronomers published a study describing a peculiar observation: Those voids have structures in them, too. They’re filled with delicate tendrils of galaxies (six, on average) that connect larger filaments to one another or to other voids. It’s the first time such small, stringy structures have been spotted, the team reported March 9 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Animation: Will Parr, Mark Swinbank and Peder Norberg/Vimeo. Constructed using data from GAMA and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the animation shows the real positions and images of the galaxies. Distances are to scale, but the galaxy images have been enlarged.