Podcaster: Richard Drumm
Title: Space Scoop: Meet the Biggest Baby in the Early Universe
Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy
Description: Space scoop, news for children.
In October of 2018, the discovery of a new supercluster in the distant Universe was announced! It’s so far away that we’re actually seeing this cluster as it was when the Universe was very young. Just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang. It’s a surprise that something so big existed when the Universe was so young and there had been little time for it to grow. Yet this ancient supercluster already has enough material to make more than one million billion Suns.
Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.
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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.
Meet the Biggest Baby in the Early Universe
The Universe is filled with something called the ‘cosmic web’. This is a giant network made up of stars linked together in galaxies and galaxies bound in groups and groups forming truly titanic networks called galaxy clusters.
A group of galaxies might be dozens of galaxies strong. A cluster of galaxies might have hundreds or even thousands of galaxies.
Stretching from cluster to cluster we see long chains or filaments of galaxies. They are like bridges running from cluster to cluster.
Then there are immense voids where there are few galaxies at all. It all starts to resemble an irregular, 3-dimensional spider’s web.
It looks surprisingly like bread. Take a magnifying glass and have a look. The carbon dioxide that is released as the dough rises makes voids that give the bread it’s light texture.
When galaxy clusters link together they make the largest structures of all: superclusters. These are clusters of clusters!
Superclusters stretch across hundreds of millions of light years of space. Less than 50 have been discovered so far, but there are thought to be 10 million superclusters in our Universe.
In October of 2018, astronomers announced the discovery of a new supercluster, called Hyperion, in the distant Universe! It’s in the direction of the constellation Sextans, the sextant.
The team of astronomers was led by Olga Cucciati of INAF, the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Bologna. They used the VIMOS instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the VLT, at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.
We can see this baby supercluster still forming almost 11 billion light years away. And although it’s still growing it’s already the biggest structure ever found at such a large distance from the Earth.
It’s so far away that we’re actually seeing Hyperion as it was when the Universe was very young. Just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang.
This is, of course, because while light is faster than anything else in the Universe, it still takes time for it to travel through space, and there’s a LOT of space between that supercluster and us!
For the most distant objects, like this supercluster, it takes billions of years for their light to reach Earth. So we’re actually seeing what these objects looked like millions or billions of years ago, when the Universe was much younger.
There are at least 7 areas of higher density in Hyperion, connected by filaments. Other superclusters that are closer to Earth, and therefore older, have a clearer definition in their structure.
The filaments are thinner and the voids are emptier in the older superclusters. To revisit my bread dough analogy, it’s like the dough is still rising and the CO2 is causing the bubbles to grow as the Universe’s bread loaf is expanding.
Hyperion is more homogenous and not as well defined into filaments & knots of clusters, showing how superclusters looked early on in their formation.
It’s a surprise that something so big existed when the Universe was so young as there had been little time for it to grow. Yet this ancient supercluster already has enough material to make more than one quadrillion Suns.
That makes it similar in size to the largest structures in the Universe today!
Hey, Here’s A Cool Fact:The supercluster we are part of is called ‘Laniakea’. It’s made up of about 100,000 galaxies!
The big baby supercluster in today’s story is called Hyperion because of its great size & mass.
Hyperion was one of the Titans in Greek mythology. They were the fore-runners of the later Greek gods who hung out on Mount Olympus. Hyperion was the father of the Sun, the Moon and the dawn. He was said to be the god of watchfulness, wisdom & light.
I’m sure the astronomers in that team have the wisdom to stay watchful of the light from this supercluster!
Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Planetary Science Institute. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!