Astronomers stumble upon largest feature in the Universe
Astronomers have found what may be the largest feature in the known universe: a ring of nine gamma ray bursts (GRB) – and hence galaxies – five billion light years across.
GRBs are short-lived and luminous flashes of gamma-rays from space associated with energetic explosions that have been observed in far-off galaxies. They can last from a few milliseconds to several minutes and come from random directions of the sky.
They are thought to be the result of massive stars collapsing into black holes. Their huge luminosity helps astronomers to map out the location of distant galaxies. The GRBs that make up the newly discovered ring were observed using a variety of space- and ground-based observatories.
They appear to be at very similar distances from us – around 7 billion light years in a circle more than 70 times the diameter of the full Moon, researchers said.
This implies that the ring is more than 5 billion light years across. There is only a 1 in 20,000 probability of the GRBs being in this distribution by chance, said Professor Lajos Balazs of Konkoly Observatory in Budapest who led the Hungarian-US team of astronomers which made the discovery.
The astronomers now plan to find out more about the ring, and establish whether the known processes for galaxy formation and large scale structure could have led to its creation, or if scientists need to radically revise their theories of the evolution of the cosmos.
Most current models indicate that the structure of the cosmos is uniform on the largest scales. This ‘Cosmological Principle’ is backed by observations of the early universe and its microwave background signature.