Magazine article Science News

Blown Away: Froth of Cosmic Bubbles

Magazine article Science News

Blown Away: Froth of Cosmic Bubbles

Article excerpt

Blown away: Froth of cosmic bubbles

Astronomers used to think the universe was homogeneous. But recent observations of voids in the universe, of clusters of galaxies associated in ultralong superclusters, have seemed to fault the idea. Soon astronomers may have to give it up entirely. The latest, and apparently most extensive, observation, reported at last week's meeting in Houston of the American Astronomical Society, indicates that the universe is a froth of bubbles, large empty volumes with galaxies clustered in their walls.

The distribution of galaxies was observed in what the scientists call a "slice of the universe,' a region extending almost halfway around the horizon and 6| thick. In this they have plotted the locations of galaxies according to their velocities of recession from us. The third dimension has to be velocity, says Margaret J. Geller of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA) in Cambridge, Mass., because, although astronomers are agreed that a galaxy's recession velocity measures its relative distance, they cannot agree on the value of the Hubble constant, by which they could calculate absolute distance. Along with Geller, the researchers include Valerie de Lapparent (visiting from the Ecole Normale Superieure de Jeunes Filles and the University of Paris VII in France) and John P. Huchra of the Harvard-Smithsonian CFA.

The evidence shows up in the pattern in the above illustration: Galaxies appear clustered in long strings with open spaces between them. …

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