Lyman Alpha Blobs and Science Reporting

You may have caught this post at CNN online.

An enormous amoeba-like structure 200 million light-years wide and made up of galaxies and large bubbles of gas is the largest known object in the universe, scientists say.

It’s taken from a quick piece at Space.com.

But I must say that both, especially the excerpts at CNN, left me far more confused than enlightened. In the space of three different (and short) paragraphs, the author manages to describe “amoeba-like” shapes, filaments and bubbles, and notes sizes of both 200 million and 400 thousand light-years, without much to help the reader understand the significance of either.

Here’s a much clearer write up from Universe Today.

My summary is that very large organized structures in the universe were formed first. That is, the larger something is, the sooner it was formed. Organized structures (and that, indeed, is what were talking about here – identifiable regions where the concentration of gas is about 4 times normal), this size (400 million light-years is about 3% of the size of the visible universe) tell us about forces that acted on matter very soon after the universe came into existence.

The distance between The Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy, our closest large neighbor in space, is pretty representative of the separation between galaxies in general. It’s about 2 million light years, give or take. The size of these “blogs” is much more like the extent of clusters of galaxies, which varies widely, but can easily reach the hundreds-of-millions-of-light-years mark. This indicates that the structures are probably implicated in the formation of clusters of galaxies, and indirectly in the formation of galaxies.

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