The extraordinarily long strands of hot gas known as intergalactic filaments connect and surround galaxies and groups of galaxies across the cosmos – and scientists have just discovered the longest so far.
intergalactic filaments form a cosmic network that stretches across the observable universe. Within this structure, galaxies are arranged in a network-like pattern, connected and surrounded by these filaments.
According to previous research, after the Big Bang began our universe 13.8 billion years ago, much of the hydrogen gas that makes up the known matter in the universe collapsed into sheets, which split even further into long filaments. and serpentine.
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Now, scientists led by researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have observed the longest filament ever found. The gas wire stretches over an astonishing 50 million light-years, and its structure aligns with predictions made by computer simulations, discovered by researchers, according to a statement issued by the University of Bonn.
“According to estimates, more than half of all baryonic matter in our universe is contained in these filaments – this is the form of matter that makes up the stars and planets, just like ourselves, “said the study’s lead author, Thomas Reiprich, a professor at the Argelander Institute of Astronomy at the University of Bonn, in the same statement.
Because the filaments stretch so far, the particles that make them up are very widespread, making them extremely difficult to observe. However, Reiprich and colleagues were able to make the gas fully visible for the first time, using the eROSITA space telescope, an X-ray telescope built by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, according to the statement.
“EROSITA has very sensitive detectors for the type of X-ray radiation that emanates from the gas in the filaments,” Reiprich said of the observations. “It also has a large field of view – like a wide-angle lens, it captures a relatively large part of the sky in a single measurement and at a very high resolution.” These aspects of the space telescope allow researchers to take detailed images of huge objects such as filaments and do so relatively quickly.
The team studied Abell 3391/95 – a system of three groups of galaxies 700 million light-years from Earth. The images made using eROSITA show the individual clusters and galaxies entering the system, but, perhaps even more amazingly, the discharges that connect the galaxies and clusters, with the entire filament spanning 50 million light-years.
However, although this is the longest filament ever observed, researchers believe it could be even longer than the section seen in the images, according to the statement.
“We compared our observations to the results of a simulation that reconstructs the evolution of the universe,” Reiprich said. “The eROSITA images are strikingly similar to computer-generated graphics. This suggests that the widely accepted standard model for the evolution of the universe is correct.”
This paper was described in a study accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics.
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