The idea that celestial objects exist within utterly immense cosmic structures is becoming inescapable.
- New findings in astronomy are making some astronomers doubt our basic model of the universe.
- Alignments of celestial objects suggest that they may be embedded in large-scale structures.
- Galaxies too far apart to be influencing each other are moving through space together.
Large-scale structures<p>The existence and mechanics of large-scale structures are a tantalizing puzzle with obviously major implications for our understanding of the universe. As <a href="https://www.aip.de/Members/nlibeskind/" target="_blank">Noam Libeskind</a>, of the Leibniz-Institut for Astrophysics (AIP) in Germany tells <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/zmj7pw/theres-growing-evidence-that-the-universe-is-connected-by-giant-structures?fbclid=IwAR3vGbN5k3ehfflhtfhqDWRTZYKFV55qWDFcdeNg7qzehMuWUzYxOD6DYW8" target="_blank"><em>VICE</em></a>, "That's actually the reason why everybody is always studying these large-scale structures. It's a way of probing and constraining the laws of gravity and the nature of matter, dark matter, dark energy, and the universe."</p><p>The identification and study of large-scale structures is a product of analyzing and modeling simulations of redshift survey for specific regions of the sky that visually reveal these immense structures.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA4ODYyOC9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDU3MzQ5MH0.ld1Wan57J6GWLbO07WunlvtNAgIaImdiAzHA1dX2_cI/img.gif?width=980" id="10bf3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1139438b67af96a95f9a031265ad3783" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The large-scale structures revealed in one segment of sky
Billions of light years apart<p>Several pieces of research are causing interest in these large-scale structures to heat up. The most mind-blowingly distant synchronized motion was reported in 2014, when the rotation axes of 19 super-massive black holes at the centers of quasars — out of 100 quasars studied — were found to be in alignment, <em>billions</em> of light years apart. <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/zmj7pw/theres-growing-evidence-that-the-universe-is-connected-by-giant-structures?fbclid=IwAR3vGbN5k3ehfflhtfhqDWRTZYKFV55qWDFcdeNg7qzehMuWUzYxOD6DYW8" target="_blank">According to</a> the study's lead author, astronomer <a href="http://www.reflexions.uliege.be/cms/c_24506/en/hutsemekers-damien" target="_blank">Damien Hutsemékers</a> of the University of Liège in Belgium, "Galaxy spin axes are known to align with large-scale structures such as cosmic filaments but this occurs on smaller scales. However, there is currently no explanation why the axes of quasars are aligned with the axis of the large group in which they are embedded."</p><p>The first word of the research paper's title, "<a href="https://www.eso.org/public/usa/news/eso1438/" target="_blank">Spooky Alignment of Quasars Across Billions of Light-years</a>," invokes cosmic-scale quantum entanglement as a possible explanation.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA4OTQwOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTk0MTAwNn0.TcAZhf_nH7rSDCWMzIFIjD8hXEe8c36AYOscWWqZYNA/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=59%2C315%2C59%2C315&height=700" id="e71f8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9ccbeb20699df395705756fc71594ec7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: orin/Shutterstock/Big Think
Galaxies of a feather<p>Astronomer <a href="https://www.iau.org/administration/membership/individual/15249/" target="_blank">Joon Hyeop Lee</a> of the Korea Astronomy and Space Institute is the lead author of "Mysterious Coherence in Several-megaparsec Scales between Galaxy Rotation and Neighbor Motion," published in October of this year in <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/ab3fa3" target="_blank"><em>Astrophysical Journal</em></a>. Comparing data from two catalogs of redshift survey data — the Calar Alto Legacy Integral Field Area (CALIFA) and NASA-Sloan Atlas (NSA) catalogs — the researchers' analysis of 445 galaxies revealed, surprisingly, that galaxies six meparsecs, or 20 million light years, apart were moving in the same way. Those observed, for example, a galaxy moving toward the Earth was mirrored by other distant galaxies moving in the same direction.</p><p>"This discovery is quite new and unexpected," according to Lee, "I have never seen any previous report of observations or any prediction from numerical simulations, exactly related to this phenomenon."</p><p>Since the galaxies are too distant for their gravitational fields to be influencing each other, Lee poses another explanation: That the linked galaxies are both embedded within the same, large-scale structure.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA4ODY0OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTU3MjE0Nn0.u3mNCYI6_srG1jVqLQXoBx07_jZrx0Q1VBJd2uDE6z8/img.jpg?width=980" id="ae972" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc8830a93273645666a9098fd6def756" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: sripfoto/Shutterstock/Big Think
Flatness<p>Another puzzle suggesting the influence of large-scale structures has become clear over recent years. It's been observed that galaxies surrounding our own Milky Way are weirdly arranged in a single, flat plane. Big-Bang thinking would suggest that they should be circling us at all different sorts of angles. Obviously, for adherents of that way of viewing the galaxy — known as the <em>ΛCDM</em> model — this at the very least a troubling anomaly.</p><p>The hope that it <em>was</em> an anomaly weakened with the discovery of the same thing occurring around the Andromeda galaxy, and then again around Centaurus A in 2015. By the time "<a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6375/534" target="_blank">A whirling plane of satellite galaxies around Centaurus A challenges cold dark matter cosmology</a>" was published in 2018, the phenomenon was starting to seem quite common, and possibly universal. The idea that the satellite galaxies might part of a large-scale structure had become even worthier of serious consideration.</p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8T8PJXF5oRk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Just the beginning<p> As more astronomers embrace the notion of large-scale structures and related research accelerates, we can only hope that these perplexingly oddball movements and associations are eventually made clear. Certainly, imagining a vast arrangement of utterly gigantic structures in which galaxies are embedded paints a very different picture of the universe, and one that makes one wonder if these structures are themselves embedded in something even larger. In this mid-boggling case, we are indeed small enough to see only the space between objects — in this case galaxies. We've been no more aware of them than whatever it is that may be living between our own atoms.</p>
Researchers said this feat concludes “one of the major challenges in modern cosmology.”
First, a clarification. We haven’t found dark matter or dark energy, which together are thought to make up about 98% of the universe. In fact, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, we shouldn’t even call it dark matter, because we don’t know that it is in fact matter, or even what it is. He suggests we use the term dark gravity.