Observing the Cosmic Web

The Cosmic Web is believed to contain huge threads of gas that connect multiple galaxies across the universe.

Now our astronomers have observed these threads extending over three million light years.

This is the first time that the Cosmic Web has been imaged in such detail on large scales joining together several galaxies.

Stars & black holes

The gas is providing the fuel for the intense formation of stars and black holes within a very massive cluster of galaxies that were seen as they were starting to form about 12 billion years ago.

According to current theories of galaxy formation this activity can only be triggered and sustained if large amounts of gas are funnelling into the cluster from surrounding regions.

Computer simulations have indicated that the Cosmic Web, thought to consist primarily of cold dark matter and some ordinary matter, forms the scaffolding of the cosmos, providing the framework for galaxies and clusters to form and evolve.

Galaxy growth

Astronomers have previously detected the threadlike structure of the Cosmic Web in the large-scale distribution of galaxies and found hints that gas is arranged in a similar way.

Our research found that the threads contained a significant reservoir of gas that helped to fuel the continued growth of galaxies.

This now gives scientists a way to map the Cosmic Web directly and to understand in detail its role in regulating the formation of supermassive black holes and galaxies.

  • Read the research paper in the journal Science .
  • Durham’s role in the research was led by our Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy and our Institute for Computational Cosmology.
  • The study was led by the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research , Japan.
  • It was funded in the UK by the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the European Research Council.
  • Learn more about Undergraduate and Postgraduate study in Physics at Durham.

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