The Largest Structure in Observable Universe --Quasar Group 4 Billion Light-Years Wide (Weekend Feature)
On the 50th Anniversary of the discovery of the quasar, we thanought it timely to do a weekend feature on the recent discovery oftThe largest known structure in the universe . The large quasar group (LQG -a portion shown above)) is so large that it would take a spaceship traveling at the speed of light some 4 billion years to cross it.
Whole clusters of galaxies can be 2-3 Mpc across but LQGs can be 200 Mpc 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 370 Mpc. Clowes' newly discovered LQG however has a typical dimension of 500 Mpc. But because it is elongated, its longest dimension is 1200 Mpc (or 4 billion light years) - some 1600 times larger than the distance from the Milky Way to Andromeda.
"While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe," said Dr Clowes of University of Central Lancashire'sJeremiah Horrocks Institute. "This is hugely exciting – not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the universe. Even travelling at the speed of light, it would take 4 billion years to cross. This is significant not just because of its size but also because it challenges the Cosmological Principle, which has been widely accepted since Einstein. 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."
The colored background of the image below indicates the peaks and troughs in the occurrence of quasars at the distance of the LQG. Darker colors indicate more quasars, lighter colors indicate fewer quasars. The LQG is clearly seen as a long chain of peaks indicated by black circles. (The red crosses mark the positions of quasars in a different and smaller LQG). The horizontal and vertical axes represent right ascension and declination, the celestial equivalent of longitude and latitude. The map covers around 29.4 by 24 degrees on the sky, indicating the huge scale of the newly discovered structure.
The team publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The Daily Galaxy via Royal Astronomical Society
Image Credit: R. G. Clowes / UCLan