Every single human being on the planet has been amazed by how large the ‘big stuff’ from the Universe is, compared to us: stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, planets, comets, and so on. The size that a cosmic structure can take leaves astronomers speechless many times, but wait: is there even a limit in size? While nothing can theoretically be smaller than the Planck length, it doesn’t seem to be any limit in the opposite direction.
The Universe is already larger than anything we can possibly imagine using our limited human brains: the observable part measures 93 billion light-years in diameter. But let’s not forget that the Universe is constantly expanding, as it has been doing all the time since the Big Bang that occurred 13.7 billion years ago. Second, the Universe could theoretically be even millions of times larger than the observable area due to a simple scientific principle: the light from the most distant regions didn’t have enough time to reach us during the 13.7 billion years, which makes us impossible to see those regions even using our most powerful telescopes. Now let’s remind ourselves, at a much lower scale, how small we are in the Universe.
How about a trip to Abell 1367 (aka Leo Cluster)?
If humanity somehow finds a way to travel to the Abell 1367 galaxy cluster, meaning about 300 million light-years away from Earth, it would find something truly amazing: besides containing at least 72 major galaxies, this area also has a large cosmic cloud that’s even larger than the Milky Way, the galaxy where we all live. As ScienceAlert reveals about the discovery, the cloud is a vast, unique amount of faintly glowing gas. A galaxy from the cluster could be responsible for “throwing” the cloud away.
What’s even more surprising about the cloud is that it has remained intact for hundreds of millions of years. The discovery not only unveils something new about what can exist inside galaxy clusters. It also suggests a new way to tackle and understand such structures.
Physicist Ming Sun of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, declared as cited by Live Science:
This is an exciting and also a surprising discovery. It demonstrates that new surprises are always out there in astronomy, as the oldest of the natural sciences.
The new research has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.