This week’s incredible image has been masterly put together by artist Mark A. Garlick and the Nature Art Team. Nature’s Art Director Kelly Krause talks us through the design process of the cover, which focuses on the Laniakea supercluster.
A slice through the Laniakea supercluster — home: velocity flow streams within our supercluster are shown white, external flows dark blue. The Milky Way is a member of the Local Group of galaxies. The Milky Way is a member of the Local Group of galaxies. Now have sufficient data on the distances and motions of galaxies to be able to describe a much larger level of organization in our corner of the Universe — a supercluster 160 megaparsecs across and containing 1017 solar masses. Brent Tully et al. use a new catalogue of ‘peculiar velocities’, line-of-sight departures from cosmic expansion caused by gravitational perturbation, to develop a map representing the distribution of matter. They identify a ‘home’ supercluster that they name Laniakea — from the Hawaiian lani and akea (‘heaven’ and ‘spacious’). It includes the Virgo cluster, the Norma, Hydra and Centaurus clusters (also known as the Great Attractor), the Pavo-Indus filament and a number of voids. Cover art: Mark A. Garlick / Source: Daniel Pomarede.
From the Art Desk:
Art Director, Kelly Krause, explains:
“The paper essentially describes a new way to define where one supercluster ends and another begins, and defines our home supercluster. We decided this would make an excellent cover, based on their extended data figure (below). There are several key elements to the figure: the rainbow colour scale indicates density (with high density regions in green and red, and low density in blue); velocity flow streams are indicated by the blue and white lines; and the orange band indicates the border of the Laniakea supercluster.
“While these visual elements combine to make a very informative figure, I felt that we should create something fresh for the cover that would appeal to a wider audience. Working closely with authors Brent Tully and Daniel Pomarede, we requested a few modifications from which we could build a striking artist conception based on their data. We initially requested an image from Pomarede that shifted the rainbow density scale to a single dark colour (below), to more clearly put the scene in space. We took that information and gave it to artist Mark A. Garlick, who polished the image and changed the Laniakea velocity flow streams to a warm glowing colour that would be instantly recognised as light from the many galaxies in the cluster. We also removed the orange line that indicated the Laniakea border and replaced it with a more subtle approach, giving the supercluster a clear shape and with a visible border but in a layered, translucent style.
“And finally, we decided to locate ourselves on the map with some fun language (‘you are here’) to draw readers in and inspire a bit of awe.”
For additional behind the scenes commentary each week, check out the Nature Art Team’s Nature Graphics Tumblr and the previous Under the Covers on new patterns of neural activity in the brain generated through learning.