Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cosmic Web Spotted: Filaments of Galaxies

"Huge Galaxy Cluster Hints at Universe's Skeleton"
Space.com (November 3, 2009)

"A gigantic, previously unknown set of galaxies has been found in the distant universe, shedding light on the underlying skeleton of the cosmos.

" 'Matter is not distributed uniformly in the universe,' said Masayuki Tanaka, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) who helped discover the galactic assemblage. 'In our cosmic vicinity, stars form in galaxies and galaxies usually form groups and clusters of galaxies.'

"But those collections of matter are just small potatoes compared to larger structures long-theorized to exist.

" 'The most widely accepted cosmological theories predict that matter also clumps on a larger scale in the so-called "cosmic web," in which galaxies, embedded in filaments stretching between voids, create a gigantic wispy structure,' Tanaka said...."

Looks like part of the "cosmic web" has been found.

(from ESO/Subaru/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/M. Tanaka, via Space.com, used w/o permission)
"...This structure was confirmed by further observations made using ESO’s Very Large Telescope and Subaru. The galaxies located in the newly discovered structure are shown in red...."

Besides (tentatively) confirming part of a mathematical model for how the universe is put together, mapping and studying this web of galactic clusters will help astronomers, physicists and cosmologists piece together how the universe developed, and where it's going.

None of which will help anyone figure odds on the next Cubs game, or decide which reality show to watch.

But for people who are interested in how things work, and who are curious about how the universe works, this is an exciting development.

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