Academics from the University of Central Lancashire have discovered the largest known structure in the universe.
The Preston team led an international team which found the large quasar group, which is so large that it would take a spacecraft travelling at the speed of light four billion years to cross it.
Quasars are galaxies from the early days of the universe that undergo brief periods of extremely high brightness that make them visible across huge distances.
These periods are ‘brief’ in astrophysics terms but actually last 10-100 million years.
The team, led by Dr Roger Clowes from UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, has identified the LQG which is so significant in size it also challenges the Cosmological Principle - which is the assumption that the universe, when viewed at a sufficiently large scale, looks the same no matter where you are observing it from.
Dr Clowes said:“While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe.
This is hugely exciting – not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the universe.
The universe doesn’t seem to be as uniform as we thought.
He added: “Travelling at the speed of light, it would still take 4bn light years to cross.
“This is significant not just because of its size but also because it challenges the Cosmological Principle, which has been widely accepted since Einstein. Our team has been looking at similar cases which add further weight to this challenge and we will be continuing to investigate these fascinating phenomena.”
Besides Kathryn Harris, also from UCLan, Dr Clowes worked alongside academics from universities in Chile, California and Oxford University.