THE LONG VIEW
Background. This week we published a paper that maps our home supercluster of galaxies, named Laniakea (from the Hawaiian words lani, meaning heaven, and akea, meaning spacious or immeasurable). The paper essentially describes a new way to define where one supercluster ends and another begins, and maps our home supercluster.
(For an excellent animated explanation, see this fab video.)
Design challenge. We decided this would make an excellent cover, based on their extended data Fig 3 (second image). 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 gradient (bottom image), 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.