BIGGEST SUPER STRUCTURE
Our giant is one of many super-structures that make up the known, observable universe. These galactic superclusters are made up of smaller clusters and groups relatively near to each other that, gravitationally, move in harmony.
A single supercluster typically contains thousands of individual galaxies: our own Milky Way galaxy, for example, is part of the Local Group of over 50 galaxies that is part of the much larger Virgo Supercluster. This contains more than 100 galaxy groups and clusters for a total number of galaxies that number in the tens of thousands. The Virgo Supercluster spans a respectable 100 light years in diameter and until recently, the biggest known superclusters were around seven times wider.
But earlier this year, a team of scientists discovered the biggest object in the universe using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It stretches 4 billion light years across space and is so huge that it messes with conventional scientific theory on how the universe has evolved. The Large Quasar Group (LQG) consists of 73 quasars, incredibly radiant cores that surround supermassive black holes at the centre of enormous galaxies. The LQG, as it’s known, is 9 billion light years away and is several times bigger than the previously understood upper limit for the largest cosmic structure (1.2 billion light years). It’s thought that these ancient objects might represent an early stage of galactic evolution in the modern universe and the LQG itself, a rudimentary part of supercluster development.
In the last few centuries and the last few decades in particular, we’ve come a long way in our understanding of the scale and concept of the universe around us. To think that ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras was once convicted of ‘impiety’ for saying that the Sun was a ‘mass of red-hot metal larger than the Peloponnesus’ (a Greek peninsula of around 20,000 square kilometres/8,000 square miles)! With the advancement of observational technology and the launch of new telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope, it’s only a matter of time before another super-sized record is smashed and we have to revise our understanding of this giant universe.