#astronomerssay all of the #galaxiesin the #universeare #connectedby a vast #cosmicwebof filaments, but we've never actually seen this supposed network. That's changed, however, thanks to the tumultuous activity of a distant #quasarthat's illuminating the #celestialbackdrop.
We already know about these #filaments, at least conceptually, because #computersimulationstell us they're there. As the universe cooled after the #bigbangmost of its matter (including and especially #darkmatter) congealed into a network of #filamentsthat spanned the cosmos. Certain points of this web contained more mass than others, eventually resulting in the formation of stars, galaxies, and #galacticclusters. So even though the Big Bang happened long ago and its galaxies are now far apart, virtually everything's still connected within this web of vestigial matter.But these filaments, which exist as rarefied and highly #ionizedgas, are invisible and have never been seen by astronomers. We've been able to visualize intergalactic gas by detecting its absorption of light from bright background sources, but that hasn't really shown us how this gas is distributed.
Like a Flashlight
Using the #kecktelescopein #Hawaii, astronomers recently detected a very large and bright #nebulaof gas stretching about two million #light-years across #intergalacticspace. The nebula was lit-up like a Christmas tree thanks to a nearby quasar — a type of active #galacticnucleusthat shoots intense radiation powered by a #supermassive #blackhole at the center of the galaxy."This is a very exceptional object: it's huge, at least twice as large as any nebula detected before, and it extends well beyond the galactic #environmentof the quasar," noted researcher Sebastiano Cantalupo in a statement.The astronomers then took full of advantage of this discovery. They used it to detect the fluorescent glow of #hydrogengascaused by the intense #radiationfrom the quasar.
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