Astronomers have discovered the largest structure ever found in the Universe that is 1.8 billion light-years wide. Though, the peculiar thing is that this structure is not really a structure at all, it is a hole. This structure dubbed the “supervoid” is a dark, cold hole in the cosmos with nearly nothing in it, on the cosmic scale. István Szapud, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, confirmed that the supervoid is, “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.”
Szapud’s research team was looking through hundreds of thousands of galaxies throughout the Universe in a region that was previously found to be an area where the cosmic background radiation is unexpectedly much colder than the average background temperature. Therefore, astronomers named this area the “Cold Spot.”
Astronomers are baffled by the existence of this supervoid. The existence of such a massive, cold area was out of line with nearly every computerized model of the evolution of the Universe after the Big Bang. This allowed for warmer and cooler regions to form in the infant Universe, though nothing on the scale of this supervoid. The gigantic region of nothingness that was discovered may, in fact, somewhat explain the reason why the Cold Spot is there in the first place. The researchers stated they believe the supervoid is pulling energy out of the cosmic background radiation as it travels across the area.
The supervoid is not entirely empty. Although it is called the Cold Spot, it is not a perfect vacuum. Though, is has 20 percent less matter and energy in it than any other region in the Universe, which is nearly impossible, according to scientists. The supervoid is located around three billion light-years from Earth – somewhat close when comparing it to the entirety of the Universe. The Cold Spot was found using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS1) ground-based telescope in Hawaii.
The team stated, “this is the greatest supervoid ever discovered,” in comparison to others found in the cosmos. The one just found is a very unexpected size considering the normal distribution of the cosmic background radiation in the Universe. Due to its enormous size and sheer emptiness, the supervoid is a very rare find. The team stated only a few supervoids this large can theoretically exist.
Although they suggest there is a very strong correlation between the Cold Spot and supervoid, the new findings has not completely proved that there is a link with the two phenomena. Though, considering they are in the exact same spot, a sheer coincidence is highly unlikely. Even if the two are linked, the supervoid only accounts for about 10 percent of the temperature loss in the Cold Spot, according to astronomers. “It’s like the Everest of voids,” said Carlos Frenk, an astronomer at the University of Durham. Since this supervoid is the largest structure ever discovered in the Universe, he said it could be possible that astronomers could find others just like it in the future. With more research from Pan-STARRS1, the origin of these energy sucking structures could be unearthed to find out one of the many mysteries of the Universe.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by WMAP Science Team, NASA – Flickr License