The cosmic web, a vast, mysterious structure that links up far-flung galaxies, has been observed directly for the first time. The observations reveal that an ancient cluster of galaxies about 12bn light years away, in the constellation of Aquarius, are linked together by a network of faint gas filaments. The existence of the cosmic web is central to current theories of how galaxies first formed following the big bang, but until now evidence for its existence had remained largely circumstantial. The direct detection of the web came following intensive observations designed to pick up the faintest known structures. Prof Michele Fumagalli, an astrophysicist at Durham University and co-author of the work said: “It is very exciting to clearly see for the first time multiple and extended filaments in the early universe. We finally have a way to map these structures directly, and to understand in detail their role in regulating the formation of supermassive black holes and galaxies.” Galaxy clusters are the most tightly gravitationally-bound structures in the universe and can contain between hundreds or thousands of galaxies. However, despite the colossal amounts of gas and dark matter they contain, theoretical predictions suggest that most of the gas in the… Read full this story
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