Astronomers discover Largest known Spinning Structures in the Universe


From planets to stars to galaxies, astronomical things spin many times. According to research co-author Noam Libeskind, a senior cosmologist at Germany's Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam, large clusters of galaxies generally rotate very slowly, if at all. Many cosmologists consider that this was the limit of spinning on cosmic scales. 

Latest research let out that after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, much of the gas that makes up the important part of known matter in the universe collapsed to create colossal sheets. These sheets then break into the filaments of a vast cosmic web. 

An artist's impression of a spinning cosmic filament.

The scientists subject to an experiment over 17,000 filaments using information from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, examining the rate at which the galaxies that make up these massive tubes move within each tendril. The researchers discovered that the way these galaxies moved indicated that they were spinning around the central axis of each filament. 

The quickest one the researchers saw galaxies whirl around the hollow centers of these tendrils was about 223,700 mph (360,000 kph). The scientists observed that they do not put forward that every single filament in the universe spins, but that spinning filaments do seem to exist. 

One of the considerable questions that arise is, “Why do they rotate?” Libeskind said. The Big Bang would have given the universe no ancient spin. As such, whatever caused these filaments to spin must have arises later in history as the structures formed, he said. 

One possible clarification for this rotation is that as the powerful gravitational fields of these filaments pulled gas, dust and other material within them to fall in together, the resulting shearing forces might have revolved this material. Still, right now, “we’re not actually sure what can cause a torque on this scale,” Libeskind said. 

Scientists are now trying to explain the origin of filament spin using computer simulations of how matter behaves on the larger cosmological scales.  

Reference(s): Nature Astronomy 

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