Scientists from the University of Lancashire have discovered a giant ring-shaped structure in space that changes basic theories of the origins of the universe.
It is 1.3 billion light-years across, and is about 15 times the size of the Moon in the night sky as seen from Earth.
Astronomers call it the “Great Ring,” and it consists of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Experts even claim that it is so large that it changes our understanding of the universe.
At a distance of more than 9 billion light-years from Earth, it cannot be seen with the naked eye, but its diameter in the night sky is equivalent to 15 full moons.
According to one of the guiding principles of astronomy, called the cosmological principle, such large structures should not exist. This states that all matter is spread smoothly throughout the universe.
Although stars, planets, and galaxies represent huge masses of matter to our eyes, they are insignificant compared to the size of the universe. Based on this theory, much larger pieces of matter should not form.
However, the Great Ring is by no means the first possible violation of the cosmological principle, and thus indicates that there is another factor that has not yet been discovered.
According to Dr. Robert Massey, deputy director of the Royal Astronomical Society, there is growing evidence of a rethinking of the foundations of astronomy.
“This is the seventh large structure to be discovered in the universe, and it contradicts the idea that the universe is smooth at its largest scales.
“If these structures are real, they will certainly be food for thought for cosmologists thinking about how the universe evolved over time.”
“From current cosmological theories, we did not think structures on this scale were possible,” said Alexia Lopez, a PhD student at the University of Lancashire who led the analysis.
“We can probably expect very large structure throughout our visible universe,” he said, adding: “It's really surreal. I made these discoveries by accident, but it's so important I can't believe I did it.”
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