Astronomers find faint strings of galaxies inside empty space

Mar 10, 2014
A simulation of the ‘Cosmic Web’ showing clusters of galaxies and a void in the middle of the image, where Dr Alpaslan and team discovered tendrils of galaxies. Credit: Cunnama, Power, Newton and Cui (ICRAR).

(Phys.org) —Australian astronomers have shown galaxies in the vast empty regions of the Universe are actually aligned into delicate strings in research published today in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

A team of astronomers based at The University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has found short strings of faint galaxies in what were previously thought to be extremely empty parts of space.

The Universe is full of vast collections of galaxies that are arranged into an intricate web of clusters and nodes connected by long strings. This remarkably organized structure is often called the 'cosmic web', with busy intersections of galaxies surrounding vast spaces, empty of anything visible to us on Earth.

"The spaces in the cosmic web are thought to be staggeringly empty," said Dr Mehmet Alpaslan, who led the research. "They might contain just one or two galaxies, as opposed to the hundreds that are found in big clusters."

These huge, empty regions are called voids, and for years, astronomers have been trying to understand the small population of galaxies that inhabit them.

Using data from the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey, Alpaslan and his colleagues found that the small number of galaxies inside these voids are arranged in a new way never seen before.

"We found small strings composed of just a few galaxies penetrating into the voids, a completely new type of structure that we've called 'tendrils'," said Alpaslan.

To discover tendrils, the GAMA team created the largest ever galaxy census of the southern skies using observations from the Anglo-Australian Telescope in NSW, Australia.

"Our new catalogue has looked deeper into space and mapped each patch of sky up to ten times to make sure it's as thorough as possible," said Dr Aaron Robotham from The University of Western Australia node of ICRAR.

"We weren't sure what we'd find when we looked at voids in detail, but it was amazing to find so many of these tendrils lurking in regions that have previously been classified as empty," said Robotham.

"This means that voids might be much smaller than we previously thought, and that that were previously thought to be in a void might just be part of a tendril," said Alpaslan.

The GAMA team plan to catalogue more tendrils for further study as their detailed map of the Universe expands.  

Explore further: Fat or flat: Getting galaxies into shape

More information: Paper: mnrasl.oxfordjournals.org/cont… 5/mnrasl.slu019.full

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HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (5) Mar 10, 2014
Filamentation is a fundamental characteristic of space at a number of scales -- not just the largest, "cosmic web" scale, but also at the interstellar scale. Protostars are commonly observed to form in families along filaments, and the material needed for gravitational accretion is not always observed when we inspect these systems -- casting doubt upon gravitational collapse as the fundamental process involved.

Filaments are also quite common within the HI hydrogen spectra as well, which is commonly used for searching for ET, since these frequencies pass through most cosmic dust. Radio astronomers like Gerrit Verschuur have studied these all-sky surveys and has gone out of his way to caution people against using the term "interstellar cloud". The hydrogen between stars is frequently highly filamentary.

None of this is to be expected if gravity is the universe's dominant force, folks. We need to be re-evaluating our cosmological theories in light of these fractal-like filaments.
pianoman
not rated yet Mar 11, 2014
Does this information, in any way, conflict with the big bang theory? Thanks.
Rimino
Mar 11, 2014
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Rimino
Mar 11, 2014
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Rimino
Mar 11, 2014
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Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Mar 11, 2014
"charge" differential...:-)
Bonia
Mar 11, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (4) Mar 12, 2014
Does this information, in any way, conflict with the big bang theory? Thanks.


No, such filaments are expected to result from the process of gravitational collapse called "Jeans Instability".
Benni
not rated yet Mar 15, 2014
It rather appears as if the universe is more homogeneous than many thought. It should have been expected, after all Albert Einstein surmised in his Theory of General Relativity this would be the case.

The distribution of energy requires requires even distribution (density) of matter inside energy producing systems (the universe), such distribution is called "entropy". Entropic processes result in distribution of energy which create spherical or quasi-spherical parameters, also noted in Einstein's GR. This being the case, astronomers should never expect to see "empty voids" anywhere in the Universe.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Mar 15, 2014
It rather appears as if the universe is more homogeneous than many thought. It should have been expected, after all Albert Einstein surmised in his Theory of General Relativity this would be the case.

The distribution of energy requires requires even distribution (density) of matter inside energy producing systems (the universe), such distribution is called "entropy". Entropic processes result in distribution of energy which create spherical or quasi-spherical parameters, also noted in Einstein's GR. This being the case, astronomers should never expect to see "empty voids" anywhere in the Universe.

Instead, they should see widening gyres (vortexes) of matter...:-)
yyz
5 / 5 (3) Mar 15, 2014
"...astronomers should never expect to see "empty voids" anywhere in the Universe."

All good and well, Benni, except voids are *observed* phenomena: http://en.wikiped...of_voids
Bonia
Mar 15, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (4) Mar 15, 2014
"...astronomers should never expect to see "empty voids" anywhere in the Universe."

All good and well, Benni, except voids are *observed* phenomena: http://en.wikiped...of_voids

"space is filled with a network of currents leading to the cellular and filamentary structure of matter" Alfven

http://www.plasma...fven.pdf
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Mar 16, 2014
Here's a statement from another article that bears some applicable consideration -

"And to Walker, this transition—from information seeping upward only to information flowing both up and down—is the key to understanding life's origins. Put differently, the blueprint for building an organism isn't stored in its DNA only, but it's distributed in the state of the entire system."
Why aren't we looking at the entirety of the galactic "system"?
We live in a fractalized system, folks. The Universe only does one thing, endlessly, regardless of the locality and scale. Everything MOVES.