Biggest structure in universe found

Astronomers have discovered the biggest structure in the universe – streams of galaxies 200 million light years long, they revealed this week.

The giant filaments stretching across space were formed only two billion years after the birth of the universe. They were revealed by the light from 30 gas clouds within them. Each cloud is ten times more massive than our own Milky Way galaxy which contains 200 – 400 billion stars.

Scientists say the record-breaking structure, shown in the 3D graphic from Subaru, is four times the length of the biggest previously observed clusters of galaxies. The concentration of galaxies within it is also four times denser than average in the universe.

Astronomers made the discovery using the giant Subaru and Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Subaru’s Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph was used to make a detailed study of a region of sky 12 billion light years from Earth.

The clouds of gas, known as Lyman alpha blobs, were seen as they appeared 12 billion years ago. It is believed they have since evolved into the most massive galaxies in the universe.

Subaru is operated by Japan. Astronomer Ryosuke Yamauchi said: “Something this large and this dense would have been rare in the early universe. The structure we discovered and others like it are probably the precursors of the largest structures we see today which contain multiple clusters of galaxies.”

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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