On a clear night, it may appear that the stars above are roughly evenly distributed. But this is not the case – all the stars are part of a giant cosmic web that connects galaxies across the universe like threads of spider silk, leaving unfathomably large spaces of nothingness between them. At the moment two Leaves Publishing in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on June 29, scientists detail evidence that this massive cosmic road stretches back nearly to the dawn of the universe.
using data from James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a massive gaseous tendril of 10 compact galaxies spanning more than 3 million light-years. According to the researchers, this ancient thread of gas and stars may represent the oldest known thread of the cosmic web.
“I was surprised at how long and tight this thread was,” she said. Xiaohui Fanan astronomer at the University of Arizona and a member of the research team, said in A statement. “I was expecting to find something, but I wasn’t expecting such a long, obviously thin structure.”
The newly discovered filaments formed when the universe was young – just 830 million years after the great explosion. It rests on a very bright celestial body with a supermassive mass Black hole known as a quasar at its center.
This bright black hole is the reason scientists discovered the tendrils in the first place. Fan and his team are working as part of the ASPIRE (Spectral Survey of Biased Hales in the Reionization Era) project, which aims to study how the first black holes affected the evolution of galaxies. The quasar discovered here was one of 25 quasars in the early universe that the project focused on.
“This is one of the oldest filamentous structures people have found associated with a distant quasar,” Fig WangThe University of Arizona astrophysicist and principal investigator for the program, said in the release.
Researchers hypothesize that black holes helped create the cosmic web by acting as gravitational wells to hold matter together, and sometimes by pushing it away on the “cosmic wind,” which swirls around highly energetic quasars. Gravity keeps these strands of stars and dust connected, even as winds pull them across the universe.
The researchers believe that eventually, the filament will condense into a group of galaxies, a la Trance groupwhich is located about 330 million light-years from Earth.
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