Early strings of cosmic web identified by James Webb Space Telescope | Space


The location of galaxies across our universe don’t randomly exist. Instead, they are connected by a threadlike arrangement with massive barren “oceans” of dark matter in between them. Known as the “cosmic web,” a term that was coined in 1996 by the University of Toronto’s Richard Bond, it provides the building blocks for infrastructure of the universe. Think of it like a blueprint for all of existence.

While astronomers know that the cosmic web exists, how it evolved into what it is today largely remains a mystery. However, using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a team of astronomers have now discovered a peculiar string of 10 threaded galaxies in the early universe that existed 830 million years after the Big Bang.

“This is one of the earliest filamentary structures that people have ever found associated with a distant quasar,” said Feige Wang, an assistant research professor at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory and lead author of one of the two papers published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters detailing the discovery.

JWST has given astronomers the opportunity to peer back in time and observe the very faint, dim objects that existed shortly after the Big Bang. As Fang noted, this early string of galaxies is anchored by a luminous quasar. A quasar is an active galactic nucleus that is believed to be energized by a supermassive black hole. Astronomers have observed thousands of quasars at far away distances from our galaxy. But this is the first time astronomers have observed the early formation of the cosmic web in a formation that’s fastened by a quasar.

“I was surprised by how long and how narrow this filament is,” said one of the authors, Xiaohui Fan, in a statement. “I expected to find something, but I didn’t expect such a long, distinctly thin structure.”

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This observation adds on to piling research…

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