Good afternoon, and happy Thursday (already—where does the time go?).
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Spinning Ancient Webs
Though it appears otherwise at first glance, galaxies are not distributed totally randomly across the universe. They’re organized along a universe-wide network of long, thin filaments separated by massive regions of empty space and connecting to one another at dense junctures, forming an unfathomably large cosmic web.
In two papers published this week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team of researchers led by University of Arizona astronomers claim to have found an early thread of this web. JWST observations revealed a thread of 10 galaxies in the universe connected by a narrow filament of gas and anchored at one end by a type of luminous black hole called a quasar.
“This is one of the earliest filamentary structures that people have ever found associated with a distant quasar,” Feige Wang, the principal investigator of this program, said in a statement.
The findings: While conducting the ASPIRE (A SPectroscopic survey of biased halos In the Reionization Era) survey, which aims to build a better understanding of how black holes in the young universe impacted galaxy formation and evolution, researchers came across the anchoring quasar. This quasar, a remarkably luminous spot in the sky, appears as it existed only 830 million years after the Big Bang.
The first billion years after the Big Bang is called the Epoch of Reionization, and it’s defined by the formation of the first stars and galaxies.
Follow-up observations revealed a long thread of gas, three million light-years long, trailing from this quasar. Ten galaxies from the same era sit along that thread.
These observations support the idea that black holes are essential for the early formation of the cosmic web. They pull large amounts of gas and dust that had been dispersed across space into a central location, then send it flying across space again with cosmic winds. When this flinging happens, matter stays relatively tightly packed due to gravity, and the filaments we observe across space can form.
Guessing the future: The research team believes, looking at the long trail of dust and gas connecting the quasar and the 10 identified galaxies, that gravity may eventually pull the group back together into a new galactic cluster.
Lifting Humankind to New Heights
NASA's Space Launch System is the world’s most powerful heavy-lift rocket.
The SLS, including the Boeing-built core stage, is designed to send humanity back to the Moon, on to Mars and into the unexplored.
Learn more about how NASA’s Space Launch System is paving the way for humanity to go farther than it has ever gone before.
Other News from the Cosmos
Euclid, ESA’s dark energy-hunting space telescope, lifted off and began its million-mile journey to L2, a point in space where the Earth and Sun’s gravitational pulls balance out (and where JWST also resides).
JUICE, i.e., the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, has collected its first UV data since its launch in April.
Ingenuity, NASA’s Mars helicopter, beamed a transmission home after 63 days of radio silence.
Satellite data shows Canadian wildfires have released more CO2 into the atmosphere in the first half of 2023 than in any other full year on record.
The Parker Solar Probe completed its 16th close approach of the Sun.
The rate of universal expansion could be measured using lensed gravitational waves.
Small planets may sometimes form due to the influence of two larger planets orbiting in the same protoplanetary disc, and according to models, Mars and Uranus may have formed this way.
A solar flare erupted from the Sun on July 2.
JWST spotted reservoirs of dust in the material ejected from two supernovae.
The Moon has a deposit of granite about 50 km wide that hints at past volcanic activity.
The View from Space
JWST has now completed observations of all four ringed giant planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—in its signature infrared. Here, the telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) captures Saturn and three of its moons in wavelengths that give the iconic rings a ghostly glow.