All About Space

Gigantic structure stretching 1.37 billion light years across discovered

- Words by Adam Mann

Spectacula­r 3D maps of the universe have revealed one of the biggest cosmic structures ever found

– an almost-inconceiva­ble wall stretching 1.37 billion light years across that contains hundreds of thousands of galaxies. The South Pole Wall, as it’s been dubbed, has been hiding in plain sight, remaining undetected until now because large parts of it sit half a billion light years away behind the bright Milky Way galaxy. The South Pole Wall rivals in size the Sloan Great Wall, the sixth-largest cosmic structure discovered. One light year is roughly nine trillion kilometres (six trillion miles), so this cosmic structure is mind-bendingly humongous.

Astronomer­s have long noticed that galaxies are not scattered randomly throughout the universe, but rather clump together in what’s known as the cosmic web, enormous strands of hydrogen gas in which galaxies are strung like pearls on a necklace that surround gigantic and largely empty voids.

Previous cosmograph­ic work has charted the extent of other galactic assemblies, such as the current structural record holder, the HerculesCo­rona

Borealis Great Wall, which spans 10 billion light years – more than a tenth the size of the visible universe.

The resulting map of the South Pole Wall shows a mind-boggling bubble of material more or less centred on the southernmo­st point of the sky, with a great sweeping wing extending north on one side in the direction of the constellat­ion Cetus and another stubbier arm opposite it in the direction of the constellat­ion Apus.

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