Have you ever felt like the universe is very, very large and you’re just a tiny, insignificant dust speck floating on the third rock from the sun? Who hasn’t, right? Well, hold on to your dandelion because this news is going to make you feel like the microscopic Who that Horton heard.
Recently, astronomers discovered the largest known structure ever seen in the universe — a clump of active galactic cores that stretches 4 billion light-years from end to end. This enormous structure is something called a Large Quasar Group (LQG), a collection of extremely luminous galactic nuclei powered by super-massive central black holes. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?
Quasars are the brightest objects in the universe. For years, astronomers have known that they tend to assemble in huge clusters, some of which are more than 600 million light-years wide. However, this newly discovered LQC is so enormous that, according to researchers, theory predicts it shouldn’t even exist. This particular quasar group appears to violate a widely accepted assumption known as the cosmological principle, which holds that the universe is essentially homogeneous when viewed at a sufficiently large scale. According to this same principle, structures larger than about 1.2 billion light-years simply should not exist. Yet, the newfound, record-breaking LQC is composed of 73 quasars and spans about 1.6 billion light-years in most directions, though it is 4 billion light-years across at its widest point. Sounds like something that would make Sheldon from Big Bang proud, doesn’t it?
Now, to put that mind-boggling size into perspective, the disk of the Milky Way galaxy — home of Earth’s solar system — is about 100,000 light-years wide. And the Milky Way is separated from its nearest galactic neighbor, Andromeda, by about 2.5 million light-years.
Are you feeling tiny yet? Yeah, I thought so.
The new study surrounding this find was published Jan. 11 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The lead author was Roger Clowes, of the University of Central Lancashire in England. Clowes and his team spotted the new super quasar in data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The quasar group is very, very distant, and therefore existed when the universe was much younger than it is now. How cool is that?
If this kind of thing tickles your brain fibers, you can read more at: http://www.space.com/science-astronomy/ or http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/01/11/largest-structure-in-universe-discovered/?intcmp=features#ixzz2Hu8wHsd2
So, when you get tired of hearing about what’s going on down here on planet Earth, you can always check out Space.com to see what’s new in the larger universe. Personally, stories like this give me some great ideas. I’ve decided my next novel is going to be a young adult Scifi Romance. I already have a rough outline. How about you? Do the mysteries of our universe tantalize you? Provide you with any story ideas? Do you secretly wish to channel your inner-geek?