Mysteries of the Local Void: Scientists Map a Vast Emptiness Around the Milky Way

A rendition of the area surrounding the Local Void, with our galaxy at the center of the three arrows.
(Image credit: R. Brent Tully)

Astronomers mapped out the Local Void — an extensive, empty region of space that borders the Milky Way — revealing new details about the structure of our cosmic neighborhood.

Although it was discovered more than 30 years ago, the Local Void’s exact size and shape have remained a bit of a mystery.

The new study mapped the size and shape of the cosmic void using observations of the movement of galaxies to create a 3D map of the local universe, showing how the Local Void becomes “emptier” as the universe expands, officials with the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy said in a statement.

The Local Void was discovered in 1987 by Brent Tully, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who is also the lead author of the new study, and Richard Fisher, an astrophysicist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia. The pair noted that while the Milky Way is surrounded by other galaxies and cosmic structures, our galaxy also sits at the edge of a large, empty region.

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