Wednesday, April 22, 2015
'Supervoid', biggest structure known to humankind identified by astronomers
The biggest structure ever identified by humans is a gigantic hole in the universe known as the supervoid, astronomers say.
It is 1.8 billion light years across or about 10-20 times bigger than usual.
"This is probably the biggest we've ever seen, I mean it is huge," astronomer Istvan Szapudi said.
An international team of astronomers discovered the void while studying an unusually cold patch in the universe.
They had been searching the skies since 2008 hoping to find an explanation for it.
"My hypothesis was that this particular cold part could be due to an extremely large void," he said.
"The fact that the cold spot is there and the void is there and they are both very rare [means] it is very unlikely that they would not have anything to do with each other."
The supervoid is one explanation for the so-called "cold spot", which has been a mystery to astronomers for many years.
"[The] cold spot seems to defy physics in the sense that you would expect only a small amount of variation [in temperature] and the cold spot seems to exceed the amount of variation," the Australian Astronomical Observatory's Fred Watson said.
"So [it] was an anomaly, it was something that puzzled scientists and hinted that there might be things going on that we don't understand. What we call 'new physics'".
He added that although the discovery of a giant void near a cold spot may not affect our everyday lives, the science could one day have a bigger impact.
"The answer is, it teaches us about things that may one day actually effect our lives," Mr Watson said.
"If we can understand the physical processes that are taking place in these extreme circumstances, then it may well influence the way technology develops perhaps in 100 years' time [or] turn out to have practical benefits.
"You've only got to look back through history to see discoveries that came as a result to people's curiosity that eventually find their way into everyday technology."
But how a gigantic hole in the universe forms in the first place, however, is a question that still remains unanswered.
By Alice Matthews