The structure of the early universe appeared much like a spiderweb holding all the pieces together, based on new research.
Astronomers used multiple telescopes for observing glowing filaments of gas, acting like the strands connecting galaxies in a massive web. They were found in the galaxies proto-cluster, or a group of galaxies forming a cluster, 12 billion light-years away in the Aquarius constellation. The cluster is named SSA22.
Given the distance from us, that makes the cluster a structure from a time when the universe was much younger. Clusters could be stuffed with hundreds or even thousands of galaxies.
When astronomers looked at the point where the gigantic filaments crossed, they discovered the supermassive black holes that represent engines of galaxies. They also spotted galaxies that were forming stars actively.
The galaxies are fed by streams of cooling gas at these crossroads.
The Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope helped the astronomers detect Lyman alpha radiation. That is ultraviolet light that is created by energized hydrogen gas that is irradiated by the galaxies in the cluster. They have been able to pick out the faint filament wisps as a result of they were energized by the bright light being thrown off by the galaxies creating stars.
The radiation they encountered could not be caused by background radiation in the universe. However, it should be triggered by galaxies bursting with star-forming and the formation of black holes — both high energy events.
While galaxy clusters are a few of the most massive structures within the universe to be ruled by gravity, a lot of the universe’s gas exists between the galaxies. And simulations show that 60% of the hydrogen created through the Big Bang exists in these cosmic threads that assist form a structured web.
The long filaments can extend for more than a million parsecs. A parsec is about 3.26 light-years. Throughout a supercluster of galaxies, it would provide enough fuel for star formation and rising black holes.