‘A galaxy is like a giant soap bubble’

October 21st, 2008 - 2:07 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 21 (IANS) Although little is known about how the universe is structured, latest observations support the theory that large galaxies are clustered together in structures similar to giant soap bubbles, with tinier galaxies sprinkled on the surface of this “soapy” layer.A team led by Noah Brosch, director Tel Aviv University (TAU) owned Wise Observatory, is the first in the world to uncover what they believe are visible traces of a “filament” of dark matter - an entity on which galaxies meet, cluster and form. A filament can originate at the junction of two “soap bubbles”, where the thin membrane is thicker.

Brosch, with his student Adi Zitrin and researchers from Cornell University, studied an area of the sky opposite the constellation Virgo, where 14 galaxies were forming in a line, according to a TAU release.

Pundits have called the line a “Bridge to Nowhere” because it seems to start and end in unknown locations. Strangely, 13 of these galaxies were simultaneously giving birth to new stars.

The odds of this occurrence are very rare, leading the researchers to believe that the galaxies might somehow be forming on this elusive filament, made entirely from dark matter, which attracts regular matter that then turns into new stars.

“There has long been a theoretical belief that this was the case,” said Brosch, “but this new finding represents experimental results that such a filament really exists, and that possibly it is an entity made from dark matter which is aligning these galaxies.”

Brosch compared the work of an astronomer to “looking for hairs of the beard of the Creator”. This line of galaxies may be one such hair. Generally speaking, matter as we know it on earth makes up only a small percentage of our universe.

The composition of most of the universe is unknown - it’s either dark matter (about a quarter of the universe) or dark energy (the other three-quarters). “Our studies show that you don’t need to go to the edge of the universe to find dark matter. It may be only 15 million light years away, more or less in our backyard,” said Brosch.

The research has massive implications for astronomy and the understanding of galaxy-formation. Due to the surprising closeness of this new grouping of galaxies to ours, it would only be a matter of technological advances - maybe a couple of hundred years - and a longer human lifespan before explorers could visit this unusual dark matter in person.

“Our technology is abysmally limited right now, but it could definitely happen,” said Brosch.

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