January 14, 2013

Found: Largest Structure In The Universe

As redOrbit reported, astronomers have discovered the largest quasar and known structure in the universe.

Merriam-Webster defines a quasar as: any of a class of celestial objects that resemble stars but whose large redshift and apparent brightness imply extreme distance and huge energy output.

In normal terms; it’s a huge ass amount of luminous energy fueled by super massive black holes. Some quasars measure hundreds of thousands of light years from end-to-end, this quasar discovered is reported to be 4 billion light years from end-to-end.

The team that discovered this giant quasar is led by Dr. Roger Clowes from UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute. Dr. Clowes stated:

“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. 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 Cosmological Principle states that the universe is in essence homogeneous when viewed at a large scale. The calculations of the principle would indicate that structures larger than 1.2 billion light years shouldn’t exist.

Astronomers are puzzled and researchers are looking into this challenge of the Cosmological Principle, and I’m anxious to see what they find. In addition to this just being an awesome phenomena, this discovery could lead to answers on the evolution of galaxies, like the Milky Way.

Gerard Williger, an astronomer at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, recently told National Geographic, “There is very likely some mechanism [that] is turning on quasars over a large scale like this—and in a short time—which could relate to some condition in the early universe.”

Whether this will just be an awesome phenomena to admire, or whether it will lead to more answers on galaxies and our universe, this is truly a moment is space history.

This is what I love about science, the constant search for truth and understanding. Some people are satisfied by being told God created us and support it with their religious book, i.e., the Bible or Quran, others of us want real answers and won’t ignore science and its many discoveries that may conflict with a religious belief. Many are offended by these studies as they support the universe essentially created itself. Some find that notion ridiculous, although those that find it ridiculous usually want us to believe in a God that has always just, “been there.”

The other thing I love about science is that the rules keep changing. Just when we think we have enough evidence to assume something, in this case in regards to the universe, the universe reveals more of itself to us; just when we think we have all the answers, the universe changes the questions.

Image Credit: MichaelTaylor / Shutterstock

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