Our Milky Way galaxy orbits within the Local Group of Galaxies in a relatively quiet corner of space. The Local Group refers to the gravitationally bound galaxies, including the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy. Researchers count more than 50 galaxies in the Local Group, but with the discovery of new galaxies, the number is constantly growing. Moreover, the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy are the largest galaxies in the Local Group. They are surrounded by a group of small galaxies, the largest of which are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. These satellites of the Milky Way are from us at a distance of 150 to 200 thousand light years.
The Local Group is part of the cosmic web
The closest galaxy cluster to the Local Group is the Virgo Cluster, about 55 million light-years away. There are over 2,000 "island universes" in the Virgo Cluster. Compare this with the Local Group, which, according to confirmed data, includes about 50 galaxies, and according to unconfirmed ones - another 30. At the same time, the size of most of the Local Group galaxies is not comparable to the size of the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. However, this is not all - the Local Group is only a small, peripheral part of the supercluster of galaxies, which in total numbers more than a thousand of the most diverse galaxies. Together, these superclusters form a gigantic but far from the only substructure of the Universe. Feeling small?
Here is a part of the galaxies of the Local Group.
According to the Astronomy edition, most of the galaxies that make up the cosmic web - a network of superclusters of galaxies - exist in small groups that are scattered throughout space. Researchers believe that the Local Group galaxies originated more than 13 billion years ago, when the first clusters of matter expanded into protogalaxies. A billion years after the Big Bang, when stars formed, the Local Group spans 600,000 light years. The fact is that being close to each other, galaxies at that time merged more often. It is possible that such mergers could have created the Milky Way from 100 or more protogalaxies.
The satellites of the Milky Way - the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds - are located at a distance of 163 thousand light years from us. These are dwarf galaxies that the Milky Way will absorb in the future. This is not surprising, since our galaxy is right now destroying and devouring the spheroidal dwarf galaxy Sagittarius. In addition, after about 4 billion years, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way will collide to form a new, large galaxy that will eventually become a giant elliptical galaxy.
Large and Small Magellanic Clouds
Given the fact that astronomers' observations are limited to the observable Universe, the study of the galaxies of the Local Group and the Virgo cluster closest to it allows scientists to see the microcosm - a kind of laboratory or mini-Universe. The substance, which astronomers call dark matter, makes up 26% of all matter in the universe, but so far no one knows what it is. Using a technique called gravitational lensing, astronomers studied the Milky Way's halo and ruled out several suspected candidates. Likewise, scientists are using nearby galaxies to study where black holes form. One way or another, the evolution of galaxies and the process of star formation allows scientists to learn more not only about our own galaxy, but about the entire universe.