Researchers at the University of Hawaii and Manoa have discovered what they are calling “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.”
They are calling it a “supervoid” and it meausres 1.8 billion light years across. This means that it would take 1.8 billion years to travel across this space if you were to travel at the speed of light.
The study is being published online on April 20 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by the Oxford University Press.
What’s interesting about this big structure, is that it consists of a great deal of emptiness. It is still populated, but has a significantly lower galaxy count.
This part of the universe is unusually cool, researchers were actually looking for this “supervoid” as a means to explain why that area had unusual temperatures. It’s a region in the sky that’s been dubbed as the “cold spot,” and is highly unusual and unexpected given its tremendous size. The cold spot was discovered 10 years ago and is used by scientists to try and piece together the origins of our universe, as well as explain the big bang – because that theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the universe.
It was discovered using data from Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) telescope located on Haleakala, Maui, and NASA’s Wide Field Survey Explorer (WISE).
New Discovery Offers Partial Explanation
This new discovery however, still does not explain the mysterous cold spot, but offers a partial explanation.
“The existence of an empty patch helps explain the Cold Spot because assuming the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, photons of light would be expected to lose energy (cool) as they cross a void.” – István Szapudi, Lead Researcher (source)
Space is remarkable, and for the most part, all we can do is develop theories and continue to explain what we have yet to understand completely. Not long ago, scientists suggested that the big bang never even occurred. Another interesting factor to consider is the weird world of quantum physics, that shows the nature of our reality might not even be physical.
“This is the greatest supervoid ever discovered,” Kovács said. “In combination of size and emptiness, our supervoid is still a very rare event. We can only expect a few supervoids this big in the observable universe.” – István Szapudi
One thing that consfuses me is the fact that Szapudi has said this is the largest structure ever discovered, when it doesn’t seem to be a “structure” but just a portion of space with less “stuff.”
Regardless, it’s definately an interesting discovery that adds a piece to the puzzle of what we have yet to comprehend.
You can read articles that go more into detail regarding the science here.