Scientists Discover the “Largest Structure in the Universe”

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Astronomers have found a mind-bogglingly large structure, which they claim is the biggest and most humungous thing in the entire universe. 

If you think the Sun is big, think again. This structure has a mass that is more than two billion times that of the Sun. In fact, if you are superman travelling at the speed of light, it would take you 4 billion years to cross it (to put things into perspective, light travels at about 671 million miles per hour, or about 6 trillion miles per year).

 
An artist's impression of the large quasar.

If it is still difficult for you to fathom the scale of this structure, you are not alone. Scientists actually think the structure is too large to comprehend—as it “runs counter to the current understanding of the scale of the universe”, said Dr. Roger Clowes from UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, whose team led the discovery.

The structure is a Large Quasar Group (LQG) made up of seventy-three quasars—a collection of super-massive black holes which form a single huge structure.

“Our team has been looking at similar cases which add further weight to this challenge and we will be continuing to investigate these fascinating phenomena.” declared Dr. Clowes.

The massive LQG contradicts the Cosmological Principle, the assumption that the Universe, when viewed at a sufficiently large scale, looks the same no matter where you are observing it from.

The modern theory of cosmology depends on the theory of this Cosmological Principle, which has been widely accepted since Einstein and the Big Bang Theory, but is now being challenged by such cases of cosmic conundrums.

Quasars are the nuclei of galaxies from the early days of the Universe that undergo brief periods of extremely high brightness that make them visible across huge distances. These periods are ‘brief’ in astrophysics terms but actually last 10 million – 100 million years.

Since 1982, it has been known that quasars tend to group together in clumps or “structures” of surprisingly large sizes, forming Large Quasar Groups or LQGs.

To give more sense of the massive scale of this newly found structure, you should know that our galaxy, the Milky Way, is separated from its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, by about 2.5 million light-years.

Whole clusters of galaxies can be 6 million – 10 million light years across, but LQGs can be 650 million light years or more across.

Based on the Cosmological Principle and the modern theory of cosmology, calculations suggest that astrophysicists should not be able to find a structure larger than 1.2 billion light years.

However, Clowes’ newly discovered LQG has a typical dimension of 1.6 billion light years. Also, because it is elongated, its longest dimension is 4 billion light years, that is some 1,650 times larger than the distance from the Milky Way to Andromeda.

References
www.dailymail.co.uk
www.dailygalaxy.com

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