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Astronomers Get First Glimpse of Cosmic Web

Computer simulations suggest that matter in the universe is distributed in a "cosmic web" of filaments, as seen in the image above from a large-scale dark-matter simulation (Bolshoi simulation, by Anatoly Klypin and Joel Primack). The inset is a zoomed-in, high-resolution image of a smaller part of the cosmic web, 10 million light-years across, from a simulation that includes gas as well as dark matter (credit: S. Cantalupo). The intense radiation from a quasar can, like a flashlight, illuminate part of the surrounding cosmic web (highlighted in the image) and make a filament of gas glow, as was observed in the case of quasar UM287. Credit: Anatoly Klypin and Joel Primack, S. Cantalupo
Computer simulations suggest that matter in the universe is distributed in a “cosmic web” of filaments, as seen in the image above from a large-scale dark-matter simulation. The inset is a zoomed-in, high-resolution image of a smaller part of the cosmic web, 10 million light-years across, from a simulation that includes gas as well as dark matter. The intense radiation from a quasar can, like a flashlight, illuminate part of the surrounding cosmic web (highlighted in the image) and make a filament of gas glow, as was observed in the case of quasar UM287. Credit: Anatoly Klypin and Joel Primack, S. Cantalupo

Astronomers have for the first time captured a glimpse of the vast, web-like network of diffuse gas that links all of the galaxies in the cosmos.

Leading cosmological theories suggest that galaxies are cocooned within gigantic, wispy filaments of gas. This “cosmic web” of gas-filled nebulas stretches between large, spacious voids that are tens of millions of light years wide.  Like spiders, galaxies mostly appear to lie within the intersections of the long-sought webs.

In observations spied through one of the most powerful telescopes in the world, the 33-foot (10-meter) Keck I Telescope in Hawaii, astronomers led by Sebastiano Cantalupo of the University of California, Santa Cruz, now report that they have detected a very large, luminous filament of gas extending about 2 million light-years across intergalactic space, exactly as predicted by theory.

Essentially, the filament reported in the January 19 Nature represents one of the strands of the cosmic web that holds together the galaxy-rich universe. Astronomers hope to understand both the structure of the universe and the development of galaxies such as our own Milky Way by unraveling the secrets of the cosmic web.

This deep image shows the Nebula (cyan) with a size of 2 million light-years discovered around the quasar UM287 (at the centre of the image). The energetic radiation of the quasar makes the surrounding intergalactic gas glow revealing the morphology and physical properties of a "Cosmic Web" filament. Credit: S. Cantalupo
This deep image shows the Nebula (cyan) with a size of 2 million light-years discovered around the quasar UM287 (at center) . The energetic radiation of the quasar makes the surrounding intergalactic gas glow revealing the morphology and physical properties of a “Cosmic Web” filament. Credit: S. Cantalupo

The discovery came thanks to intense radiation bellowing out of a quasar (a hyper-active galaxy) dubbed UM287, 10 billion light years from Earth. The quasar illuminated the neighboring gas filament, revealing its presence with a glow that resembled a cosmic florescent sign.

“This is a very exceptional object: it’s huge, at least twice as large as any nebula detected before, and it extends well beyond the galactic environment of the quasar,” said Cantalupo, in a statement.

“The light from the quasar is like a flashlight beam, and in this case we were lucky that the flashlight is pointing toward the nebula and making the gas glow. We think this is part of a filament that may be even more extended than this, but we only see the part of the filament that is illuminated by the beamed emission from the quasar.”

 

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Comments

  1. Janet Allen
    Colorado Springs, CO USA
    May 3, 2:53 pm

    In 1995, I began to meditate and intuited that the stars are the nervous system of a cosmic being, a being that we both mirror and reflect. In 2011, I published a book based on the uncanny level of synchronicity I experienced in those meditations. This discovery and others are in line with my findings. The book is called: Creating Evolution: Black Holes in a Personal Universe. I’m sure it’s not all correct, but I won’t be surprised if it could lead us naturally to the next discovery!

  2. frankeejav
    The Poconos
    February 10, 4:32 am

    Looks like the neural network of the brain., Coincidence I think not!

  3. Paulo Almeida
    Salvador, Bahia, Brasil
    February 4, 4:10 pm

    It’s really amazing! We are connected with the hole universe!

  4. orvette
    fargo north dakota
    January 26, 4:09 am

    this is like traveling the stars and beyond…and never leaving home! exciting and fun.keep up the wonderful photos!

  5. jemall
    January 25, 10:40 am

    Universe? What is that?

  6. Reynardine
    January 22, 8:30 am

    The Universe lies,
    Its head on its paws
    With starry ticks in its titanic ear-

    Vladimir Mayakovsky
    “The Cloud in Trousers”

  7. Yuri Santos
    Brazil
    January 22, 7:16 am

    (455.5) 41:1.1 The spiral and other nebulae, the mother wheels of the spheres of space, are initiated by Paradise force organizers; and following nebular evolution of gravity response, they are superseded in superuniverse function by the power centers and physical controllers, who thereupon assume full responsibility for directing the physical evolution of the ensuing generations of stellar and planetary offspring. This physical supervision of the Nebadon preuniverse was, upon the arrival of our Creator Son, immediately co-ordinated with his plan for universe organization. Within the domain of this Paradise Son of God, the Supreme Power Centers and the Master Physical Controllers collaborated with the later appearing Morontia Power Supervisors and others to produce that vast complex of communication lines, energy circuits, and power lanes which firmly bind the manifold space bodies of Nebadon into one integrated administrative unit.*

    (456.1) 41:1.2 One hundred Supreme Power Centers of the fourth order are permanently assigned to our local universe. These beings receive the incoming lines of power from the third-order centers of Uversa and relay the down-stepped and modified circuits to the power centers of our constellations and systems. These power centers, in association, function to produce the living system of control and equalization which operates to maintain the balance and distribution of otherwise fluctuating and variable energies. Power centers are not, however, concerned with transient and local energy upheavals, such as sun spots and system electric disturbances; light and electricity are not the basic energies of space; they are secondary and subsidiary manifestations.

    http://www.urantia.org/urantia-book-standardized/paper-41-physical-aspects-local-universe

  8. Dalton Garis
    New York City
    January 22, 6:41 am

    Does anyone else think the simulation of these vast filiments in the universe look exactly like images neurons in the human brain? Say: (qul:) “Increase my astonishment at Thee, O Lord!”

  9. pete jussel
    January 21, 2:51 pm

    The universe is getting up close & personal.

  10. Wille Valentin
    January 21, 1:49 pm

    Wenn ich diese Fotos sehe, liegt die Vermutung nahe, dass das Universum ein Lebewesen ist, weil die Struktur einem Gewebe ähnelt.

  11. Rayanne
    Brasília, Brasil
    January 21, 1:36 pm

    Que descoberta maravilhosa!

  12. Tuk Lal Adhikari
    Nepal
    January 21, 8:40 am

    Are these web cocoons of gases similar to gluons that binds quarks ?

  13. Rita Mehta
    January 20, 11:51 pm

    Indra’s net!

  14. A Person
    a
    January 20, 8:43 pm

    YES! String theory says everything in the universe is a connected 11-dimensional membrane, so this should be no surprise.

  15. Prem singh sanga
    India
    January 20, 7:10 pm

    Amazing once Vivekanad rightly says,the aim of science and
    Meditation is same.Both are trying to explore the truth.

  16. Carl
    January 20, 5:38 pm

    Everything is intimately and inextricably interconnected and interdependent. There are countless ways this is made evident. Why do so many remain oblivious to this? As well as being oblivious to the immediate, practical ramifications of this? We are all in this together, and it would behoove us to act accordingly.

  17. Reid Barnes
    January 20, 5:21 pm

    This article reports: “Leading cosmological theories suggest that galaxies are cocooned within gigantic, wispy filaments of gas. This ‘cosmic web’ of gas-filled nebulas stretches between large, spacious voids that are tens of millions of light years wide.” Is it accurate or correct terminology for a scientist to call matter that is in a filament “tens of millions of light years wide” or in a plasma state a “gas”? A gas is composed of stable atoms; plasma consists of parts of atoms in an ionized state, and its behavior is fundamentally different from that of a gas. The theory to which they are clinging is based on self-contradicting non-Euclidean geometry, and it gives this nonsense result: that the universe is expanding, that is, the outer galaxies are receding at a speed in excess of the speed of light and accelerating. The theory to which they are clinging is the general theory of relativity. See the Facebook Note, Are We Ready For A Galaxy Formation Paradigm Shift?: https://www.facebook.com/notes/reid-barnes/are-we-ready-for-a-galaxy-formation-paradigm-shiftupdated/462435587142354

  18. Ronnie Murphy
    Dublin, Ireland
    January 20, 2:51 pm

    These strands are like the Microcrondia of the cosmos, and may nurture it in some way!!!

  19. chinenye
    nigeria
    January 20, 12:28 pm

    That’s amazing

  20. Tony Green
    England
    January 20, 12:25 pm

    Looks like the Neural Networks of a Brain!

  21. Leslie Ganick-Wilson
    California
    January 20, 12:25 pm

    Everything is connected! No surprise, just excitement.

  22. Dr V V Kuchroo
    India
    January 20, 12:22 pm

    A great break-through indeed. This will open new door for exploration from which world will be benefitted.

  23. Ima Ryma
    January 20, 4:00 am

    The Cosmic Web, it’s strands stretch ‘tween
    The universe voids, light years wide.
    Earth astronomers now have seen
    Glimpse of the Web and verified
    Gigantic filaments of gas,
    Holding cocooned the galaxies,
    Strung about the cosmos in mass,
    Like spiders spinning mysteries.
    The more we see, the more we know
    The wonders of the universe.
    Searching the Cosmic Web, we go
    To connect for better or worse.

    The Web, through telescopes we look,
    Searching for Twitter and Facebook.

  24. Janet Deshon
    Victoria
    January 20, 2:54 am

    The universe is filled with exploding cells strung like pearls on the tissue of dark matter.

  25. January 19, 8:01 pm

    Wow – this is amazing.