Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Largest structure in known universe found


In space, no one can hear you scream.

Or restrict your growth if you're a galactic core.

Astronomers have discovered the largest object in the known universe.  It is a large quasar group, an extremely bright vertex of galactic nuclei powered by a supermassive black hole.  The full size is estimated at 4 billion light years across.

Wow.

While quasars have a tendency to cluster together, the largest one found up until this point was 600 million light years in length.  In fact, it was previously calculated that no astronomical structure more than 1.2 billion light years across should exist.  These recent findings sort of put a cigarette out on that line of thinking.

This is one of the most fascinating aspects of science, to me anyway, and also one of the problems I have with the "skeptical at all costs" mentality: theories in science are continually overturned.  This new find not only brings new perspective to our idea of size in the universe, but as the article points out, this large quasar group violates the cosmological principle stating that when viewed at sufficient distance, the universe should appear homogenous.  Astronomy's entire understanding of scale must now shift.  It seems safe to say that the more discoveries we make, the weirder things are likely to get.

As per usual, the science fiction ideas start coming to me.  Could there be, however unlikely, an actual alien "mothership" four billion light years in size?  I guess you're sort of beyond a "spacecraft" at that unbelievable size, but if the "can't get there from here" theory is truly how it is, then it might stand to reason that a civilization or an alliance of civilizations would need something that size for space travel over multiple generations.

Keep in mind that's all just bs.  A fiction writer thinking out loud.


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