Astro-Geeks Claim To Find Biggest Structure Ever Seen
Astronomers are claiming to have found the biggest structure in the known Universe.
The structure is called the BOSS Great Wall. No, the scientists are not necessarily fans of Bruce Springsteen. BOSS stands for Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey which is part of the more well known Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
What is a Great Wall BTW?
Let’s start small(ish) first. We all know that stars group together into galaxies like our Milky Way. Galaxies swarm together into gravitationally bound Clusters. We inhabit what’s called the Virgo Cluster. Clusters, in turn, can get together as well to form mighty SuperClusters. It was only recently confirmed that we inhabit the beautifully named supercluster Laniakea.
And finally, multiple superclusters can join forces to form a Great Wall structure many hundreds of millions of light years across.
These walls likely exist throughout the 92 billion light-year observable universe, surrounding giant voids of near-nothingness. Some refer to all this as the cosmic web.
You’ve heard of that wall that Trump keeps going on about? That has nothing on The Boss Great Wall.
- The wall is composed of four superclusters-connected by massive filaments of hot gas
- In all, there are at least 830 galaxies
- It is at least 10,000 times the mass of our Milky Way galaxy which has over 200 billion stars
- It’s about 5.5 billion light years away and 1 billion lights year long
From their research paper:
“We found two walls of galaxies … that are larger in volume and diameter than any previously known superclusters. Together they form the system of the BOSS Great Wall, which is more extended than any other known structure,”
The BOSS’ length is quite impressive but it not the longest ever found. The Sloan Great Wall, for example, extends 1.38 billion light years from end to end. The BOSS Great Wall, however, exceeds it in total volume.
As usual for such discoveries, there’s not a total consensus of scientists who believe this is the biggest thing ever. Allison Coil of the University of California in San Diego said:
“I don’t entirely understand why they are connecting all of these features together to call them a single structure…There are clearly kinks and bends in this structure that don’t exist, for example, in the Sloan Great Wall.”
This type of disagreement happens often when walls like this are found. It’s mostly a judgement call as to what constitutes a single structure.
This whole “Biggest Structure” competition is also complicated by other discoveries. For example, we’ve found deep space clusters of quasars and gamma ray bursts that imply that they could be part of much larger unseen structures. If this is correct then we’re talking about structures potentially 10 billion light years across. This is so big that modern cosmology can’t explain how something could get that gargantuan by the time the light we see left those objects.
Fortunately, I can resolve this whole matter. I would argue that the biggest structure in the universe is the entire (92 billion light-year) cosmic web itself.
Image Credits: Volker Springel/Max Planck Institute For Astrophysics/SPL