Astronomers have found the largest known structure in the universe, i.e. a clump of active galactic cores, ranging in the size of 4 billion light years from one end to another at its widest point.
This research has been published online in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
This largest ever found object is a large quasar group (LQG) that is made up of extremely shining nuclei powered by supermassive central black holes.
Quasars are the high-energy and compact astronomical objects in the universe. They show a large red shift representing their extreme remoteness in the space. Their energy is so large that sometimes the energy is equal to the output of an entire galaxy.
This record-breaking quasar group is composed of 73 quasars and spans to about 1.6 billion light-years in most directions with 4 billion light-years on the widest side i.e. slightly less than one third of the size of the universe according to the present calculations.
“While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe,” lead author Roger Clowes, of the University of Central Lancashire in England, said in a statement. “This is hugely exciting, not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the universe.”
According to researchers, the size of this particular group of celestial body challenges modern cosmological theory, which points to the homogenous universe when viewed at a sufficiently large scale. Theoretical calculations negate the presence of structures larger than 1.2 billion light-years. So the theory predicts that the LQC shouldn’t be there.
“Our team has been looking at similar cases which add further weight to this challenge, and we will be continuing to investigate these fascinating phenomena,” Clowes said.
Roger G. Clowes, Kathryn A. Harris, Srinivasan Raghunathan, Luis E. Campusano, Ilona K. Soechting, & Matthew J. Graham (2012). A structure in the early universe at z ~ 1.3 that exceeds the homogeneity scale of the R-W concordance cosmology Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society arXiv: 1211.6256v1None found.