It is very exciting to clearly see for the first time multiple and extended filaments of gas connecting galaxies in the early universe,’ says researcher
Faintly glowing wisps of gas have given astronomers a rare glimpse of one of the universe’s largest but most elusive features – the intergalactic filaments of the cosmic web.
The threads, which are excited by the intense light of surrounding star-forming galaxies, were discovered using the characteristic radiation they produce.
In a new study, scientists have reported the detection of individual filaments of intergalactic gas spanning among young galaxies in a newly forming cluster, and fuelling their growth.
According to the study published in the journal Science, the detected filaments contained a significant reservoir of gas, which will help to fuel the continued growth of galaxies in this region.
Computer simulations, such as those carried out by Durham’s Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC), indicate that the cosmic web forms the scaffolding of the cosmos, providing the framework for galaxies and clusters to form and evolve.
Research co-author Professor Michele Fumagalli, at Durham University, said: “It is very exciting to clearly see for the first time multiple and extended filaments of gas connecting galaxies in the early universe.
Calvin Sykes, a PhD student in the ICC who contributed to the study, said: “These observations represent a very important step in validating our theory of the assembly of galaxies, adding a key piece of the puzzle.”
The research was funded at Durham University by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council and the European Research Council.