The Universe’s Structure Is Not Random, Here is Why

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The Universe is not a structureless mix of space stuff. 

Although astronomers know that a massive, filamentary web links everything, they tend to believe that the distribution of galaxies among those filaments is slightly random. A recent study, however, shows otherwise. Here is what you should know. 

How Some Patterns Made by Spiral Galaxies Indicate the Universe’s Structure

Lior Shamir is a computational astronomer at Kansas State University who realized a survey of 200,000 galaxies and discovered that the distribution of spin direction creates a pattern that is clearly not random. That pattern can be applied to a quadrupole arrangement with a much higher probability than chance – indicating that the early Universe could have been twirling like a giant galaxy. 

Spiral galaxies are known to be well-defined and relatively tidy. They have spiral arms, a flat disc shape, and rotation that astronomers can measure based on the Doppler shift of light from the edges of the disc. Blueshifted light contains shorter wavelengths and shows rotation towards us. The redshifted light includes longer wavelengths and displays rotation away from us. So, there are only two directions these galaxies can twirl – counterclockwise and clockwise. If the Universe is uniform or isotropic in all ways, there is a chance for a 50-50 distribution of counterclockwise and clockwise galaxies. 

But, when Shamir realized his evaluation utilizing data from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS), and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) spotted something quite odd. The split appeared to be closer to 51-49, with more clockwise galaxies than counterclockwise. Such a thing might be only a small difference, but Shamir believes the chance of this asymmetry in a uniform Universe is at least one in 1 billion. He also discovered that the asymmetry is not regularly distributed. Closer to our planet, the gap seals, and the distribution of galaxies is more balanced. But, the asymmetry is more defined, farther out in the Universe. 

Shamir thinks these results could indicate that the early Universe was less turbulent than it is today and that its consistency is deteriorating over time. 

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