Everything we know about the Universe is about to change due to a recent discovery of a massive cluster of galaxies in the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman. British Ph.D. student, Alexia Lopez, was analyzing the light from distant quasars when she discovered the Giant Arc, a cluster of galaxies covering 1/15th of the observable Universe. It was 9.3 billion light years away and spanned a vast 3.3 billion light years.
Lopez’s discovery comes on the heels of some previous similar findings. The first sighting of giant structures in space dates back to 1989 when Margaret Geller and John Huchra discovered the Great Wall. The cluster was approximately 500 million light-years long, 300 million light-years wide, and 15 million light-years thick. Next, J Richard Gott III, Mario Juric, and their colleagues at Princeton University discovered the Sloan Great Wall in 2003. This cluster was almost 1.5 billion light-years long. The biggest of these massive structures was the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, discovered in 2014. It covers 10 billion light years – more than one-tenth the size of the visible Universe.
With these discoveries tending to be less of a chance and more of the Universe reacting to things that are currently unaccounted for, astronomy is bound to change. Scientists may need to reconsider everything from the Big Bang to the Universe’s evolution.
Sights of massive structures like the Giant Arc have become a hot discussion topic among astronomers and cosmology enthusiasts because it means something huge is happening in the universe. John Hakkila, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Alabama, weighed the impact of Lopez’s discovery. Both performed a series of statistical tests which proved that there is only a 0.0003% probability that the Giant Arc occurred by chance. The implication is that there is a change in the natural physics of the Universe that is currently unaccounted for. Lopez’s discovery and the article she wrote about it challenge our understanding of the origin and evolution of the Universe. The standard model of cosmology, which provides that matter should be almost evenly distributed across space, will have to be reconsidered.
Some scientists refuse to acknowledge the possibility of enormous structures like the Giant Arc, and they believe it takes billions of light years for structures like those to form. We cannot just wake up one day and discover a colossal system covering a significant part of the observable Universe. There is also the problem of how these structures don’t fit into the understanding established by the Big Bang theory. However, more attention is being paid to these clusters as they signify the gap in what we currently know about our Universe and what is yet to be discovered.
It may seem an exaggeration to opine that massive structures like the Giant Arc will dwarf the cosmos. However, the opinion is not unreasonable considering that the observable Universe is about 94 billion light-years wide. With structures like the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall already spanning over a tenth of that size, it is reasonable to worry about the universe’s future. The way out is not by panicking, though. These discoveries only show that we still have more to learn about the Universe, and some old beliefs are bound to change.