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Do “Skeleton” Filaments Give Structure to the Universe?

3D illustration shows the position of the galaxies and reveals the extent of this gigantic structure. The galaxies located in the newly discovered structure are shown in red. Galaxies that are either in front or behind the structure are shown in blue.  Credit: ESO

This 3D illustration shows the position of the galaxies and reveals the extent of this gigantic structure. The galaxies located in the newly discovered structure are shown in red. Galaxies that are either in front or behind the structure are shown in blue. Credit: ESO

Are there “skeletons” out in the Universe –structures that form the framework of how galaxies are distributed? Astronomers have tracked down a gigantic, previously unknown assembly of galaxies located almost seven billion light-years away from us, which seems to point to a prominent galaxy structure in the distant Universe, providing further insight into the cosmic web and how it formed. “Matter is not distributed uniformly in the Universe,” says Masayuki Tanaka from ESO, who led the new study. “In our cosmic vicinity, stars form in galaxies and galaxies usually form groups and clusters of galaxies. The most widely accepted cosmological theories predict that matter also clumps on a larger scale in the so-called ‘cosmic web’, in which galaxies, embedded in filaments stretching between voids, create a gigantic wispy structure.”

The filament is located about 6.7 billion light-years away from us and extends over at least 60 million light-years. The newly uncovered structure does probably extend further, beyond the field probed by the team, and hence future observations have already been planned to obtain a definite measure of its size.

These filaments are millions of light years long and constitute the skeleton of the Universe: galaxies gather around them, and immense galaxy clusters form at their intersections, lurking like giant spiders waiting for more matter to digest. Scientists are struggling to determine how they swirl into existence. Although massive filamentary structures have been often observed at relatively small distances from us, solid proof of their existence in the more distant Universe has been lacking until now.

The galaxies located in the newly discovered structure are shown in red. Galaxies that are either in front or behind the structure are shown in blue.  Credit: ESO

The galaxies located in the newly discovered structure are shown in red. Galaxies that are either in front or behind the structure are shown in blue. Credit: ESO

The team led by Tanaka discovered a large structure around a distant cluster of galaxies in images they obtained earlier. They have now used two major ground-based telescopes to study this structure in greater detail, measuring the distances from Earth of over 150 galaxies, and, hence, obtaining a three-dimensional view of the structure. The spectroscopic observations were performed using the VIMOS instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope and FOCAS on the Subaru Telescope, operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

With these and other observations, the astronomers were able to make a real demographic study of this structure, and have identified several groups of galaxies surrounding the main galaxy cluster. They could distinguish tens of such clumps, each typically ten times as massive as our own Milky Way galaxy — and some as much as a thousand times more massive — while they estimate that the mass of the cluster amounts to at least ten thousand times the mass of the Milky Way. Some of the clumps are feeling the fatal gravitational pull of the cluster, and will eventually fall into it.

Image of the assembly of galaxies. Credit: ESO

Image of the assembly of galaxies. Credit: ESO

“This is the first time that we have observed such a rich and prominent structure in the distant Universe,” says Tanaka. “We can now move from demography to sociology and study how the properties of galaxies depend on their environment, at a time when the Universe was only two thirds of its present age.”

Source: ESO


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ND November 13, 2009, 12:46 PM

    Anaconda must be James F. Evans
    – in one posting JFE refers to himself as Anaconda
    – JFE put down ‘deleted’ for the home page url linked to from the username. Something Anaconda did early on when posting to Bad Astronomy.

    Not that this matters.

  • IVAN3MAN November 13, 2009, 9:56 PM

    @ ND,

    I noted that as well, but I don’t think that those two are one and the same, because (a) J.F.E. acknowledges electron “spin”, and (b) J.F.E. appears to be fairly consistent with his arguments, even though they are wrong, whereas Anaconda tends to contradict himself — I think that he is just a parrot who just repeats what he hears/reads, but does not know WTF he is talking about!

  • IVAN3MAN November 13, 2009, 11:30 PM


    Dr. Svalgaard presented an interlocutor’s statement: “Frankly, the descriptions [of “magnetic reconnection”] are consistent with a plasma ‘double layer’.”

    And Dr. Svalgaard answered:

    “Of course, nobody doubted that for a second. These double layers are generated in currents resulting from plasma moving in a magnetic field.”

    So what? That does not prove the “Electric Universe”!


    Admitting double layers and “magnetic reconnection” are the same structure would give too much credibility to Plasma Cosmology, and Nereid just couldn’t abide by that — it defeats her purpose for being here.

    Err… what the hell gives you that idea?

    As Dr. Svalgaard himself stated (emphasis mine):

    It would seem that the in situ measurements demolishes the ruminations of a certain Electric Universe enthusiast, Donald Scott: “Magnetic reconnection was invented to ‘explain’ away the release of vast amounts of energy from magnetic fields in plasmas by people who could not bring themselves to study EM field theory. Again – gravity does not squirt out energy. Energy is released from magnetic fields when the current CAUSING the field to exist, drops in magnitude. Proponents of ‘magnetic reconnection’ demonstrate their ignorance of electro-magnetic principles by committing several fundamental errors in that regard.”

    It seems to me that you are not only putting 2 and 2 together and getting 5, but 22 as well!

  • ND November 14, 2009, 12:59 AM


    Anaconda sounds awefully like J.F.E.. Anaconda looses it when he becomes desperate and his ignorance is fed back to him on a platter. As for that electron-spin skirmish we had a few months ago, he tried very hard with red-herrings and conflation of “electron movement” to try and label electron spin as just a hyphotheses. “Has anyone observed electron spins” he protested. What is wrong with this guy?

  • Nereid November 14, 2009, 2:18 AM

    @ND, IVAN3MAN: There’s a particularly good response, by Svalgaard, on the 30th, timestamp 16:45:34

    First he quotes JFE:

    If I refer to magnetic reconnection as a ‘double layer’ and emphasize its electromagnetism, I suggest that be taken as a synonymous term as magnetic reconnection and not seen as some misleading term open to disparagement.

    Then this response:

    It is not a question of ‘naming’, but of physics. All currents we observe in space plasmas are created by plasma moving relative to a magnetic field [and almost currents we have on the Earth as well – that’s how power stations work]. If the magnetic field gradient is large enough and/or the movement [i.e. the resulting change in magnetic field dB/dt] is fast enough these current can be enormous. Huge currents exert tremendous forces and the plasma is thus highly unstable [a particularly nasty instability is called the Buneman instability [incidentally, Oscar Buneman had his office across the hall from my old office at Stanford and has often lectured me on this – he was a good man].
    As a result of these instabilities, pinches, filaments, and current sheets appear naturally, and when two of the latter [with opposite charge] occurs together we call it a double layer. Reconnection drives these currents and are thus a natural cause of double layers. Currents have to be constantly ‘driven’ by something, otherwise they just either dissipate their energy or short out, and go away, unless some force is constantly regenerating them. As that is where the Electric Universe falters, because there is no explanation of what drives these large currents.

    The ‘electromagnetism’ label is dead wrong. There are electric fields and magnetic fields, but no ‘electromagnetic’ fields – although people often loosely talks about such a field or force. Maxwell’s equations [link omitted] make no reference to any ‘electromagnetic field’, only to electric and magnetic fields. It is a common tactic to obscure matters by referring to an ‘electromagnetic’ field allowing one to be vague and imprecise about what is meant,

    Sadly, a few days’ later, JFE writes a very long comment which shows that he understood almost nothing of what Svalgaard tried to explain (sound familiar?)

    Anyway, again thanks to ND for supplying the link … now I understand (better anyway) where Anaconda is coming from with his question (and his three papers, and …) …

  • DrFlimmer November 14, 2009, 4:35 AM

    This is disturbing. Dr. Svalgaard is really patient with JFE, who just repeats the same logical fallacies again and again and again and — yeah, you know.

    But apparently Dr. Svalgaard has the same opinion on magnetic reconnection and double layers as I had (although I didn’t stated it — my lame excuse: the questions were directed to Nereid, shame on me). Magnetic reconnection is the CAUSE that builds the double layer. They are not the same.

    Btw: It is interesting. There was a time when Anaconda heavily opposed to magnetic reconnection. And now he acknowledges them suddenly and still thinks they serve his ideas? What?

    Ah, what the heck. I guess, a few posts from now we will see comment about some playing mice while the cat was gone…

  • IVAN3MAN November 14, 2009, 10:10 AM

    Nereid (my emphasis):

    Sadly, a few days’ later, JFE writes a very long comment which shows that he understood almost nothing of what Svalgaard tried to explain (sound familiar?).

    As I have already posted above…
    Ecclesiastes 5:3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.

  • Nereid November 14, 2009, 3:50 PM

    @Anaconda: Here’s another way at looking at one aspect of what I’m trying to get you to see:

    You know the expression ‘to take something out of context’, right?

    You know that it can be quite misleading (taking something out of context, that is), and that it is quite easy to do, both deliberately (coldly, cynically … the sort of thing that happens all too often in politics, for example), and inadvertently.

    I’m sure you also recognise that a discussion based on things which have been taken out of context is likely to be unsatisfactory (and may be downright misleading, or even surreal).


    Now consider this: every time you use a key word (“emf”, perhaps), or concept (“magnetic reconnection”, perhaps) ‘out of context’ you make it likely that any further discussion will be unsatisfactory (at a minimum).

    Here comes the punch line …

    … a very high proportion of your comments, here in UT-land, are equivalent to taking key things out of context!

    Now I, Nereid, have no interest in participating in an exchange of comments where there is not just one or two things being taken out of context, but a whole legion of them.

    However, I’m more than willing to work with you, to show you how and why some (most?) of what you write cannot possibly lead to a meaningful discussion … but only if you either explicitly acknowledge ‘consistency’ as an essential element of contemporary astrophysics, or accept that you need to become conversant with at least the foundations of classical physics.

  • ND November 15, 2009, 2:01 PM


    I submit the following that James F. Evans is Anaconda


    search for “Anaconda”, it’s the only mention on that thread. Not that it matters.

  • ND November 15, 2009, 2:13 PM

    Also see


    search for “I suggest that you dial back your rhetoric and accusations a bit” and look at the next immediate posting.

  • Nereid November 15, 2009, 6:50 PM

    @ND: another very interesting thread, many thanks.

    Here’s something somewhat curious: Anaconda (a.k.a. JFE) has had various aspects of (classical) electromagnetism pointed out to him many times, over many months. He’s also had someone who personally knew Alfvén, who is obviously very familiar with both Alfvén’s work and plasma physics explain (more than once!) how, where, and why Anaconda errs in his references to Alfvén. And so on.

    Yet Anaconda continues to write just as he has always done.

    (BTW, Svalgaard delivers a very powerful rebuttal of the PU website so many EU proponents like to cite (it’s 22nd June, 17:43:13, or search “besmirch”): “The website is basically fraudulent in its claims and reflects the pseudo-science of its promoter. The site does not pass an elementary smell test once you begin to look at it in details, for instance this on Hubble: “Hubble was a stern warner of using the Doppler effect for galaxies and argued against the recessional velocity interpretation of redshift, convincing Robert Millikan, 1923 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics and director of physics at the California Insitute of Technology, that the redshift interpretation as an expanison of the universe was probably wrong, the year before both of their deaths in 1953.” So modern cosmology also goes down the drain. Since I knew Alfven personally and have discussed his ideas with him, I cannot let you besmirch him with this pseudo-science.

  • IVAN3MAN November 15, 2009, 11:43 PM

    @ ND,

    Thanks for the links, I’ll check them out later; it’s 06:42 hours, here in the UK, and it’s nearly my bedtime!

  • DrFlimmer November 16, 2009, 10:41 AM

    It is really depressing to read that Anaconda (JFE) learns nothing.

  • IVAN3MAN November 16, 2009, 3:46 PM

    @ ND,

    After checking out those two links, above, that you have provided, I now see that “Anaconda” is James F. Evans. Nice bit of research there, ND!