Size of the bubble
The bubble spans a billion light years, making it 10,000 times wider than the Milky Way galaxy. Yet this giant bubble, which cannot be seen by the naked eye, is a relatively close 820 million light years away from our home galaxy, in what astronomers call the nearby universe.
The bubble can be thought of as “a spherical shell with a heart,” Daniel Pomarede, an astrophysicist at France’s Atomic Energy Commission, told AFP. According to the report, inside that heart is the Bootes supercluster of galaxies, which is surrounded by a vast void sometimes called “the Great Nothing”.
The shell contains several other galaxy superclusters already known to science, including the massive structure known as the Sloan Great Wall. The discovery confirms a phenomenon first described in 1970 by US cosmologist Jim Peebles. He theorised that in the primordial universe the churning of gravity and radiation created sound waves called baryon acoustic oscillations (BAOs).
As the sound waves rippled through the plasma, they created bubbles. Around 380,000 years after the Big Bang the process stopped as the universe cooled down, freezing the shape of the bubbles.
The bubbles then grew larger as the universe expanded, similar to other fossilised remnants from the time after the Big Bang.
Astronomers previously detected signals of BAOs in 2005 when looking at data from nearby galaxies.
But the newly discovered bubble is the first known single baryon acoustic oscillation, according to the researchers. The astronomers called their bubble Ho’oleilana — “sent murmurs of awakening” — taking the name from a Hawaiian creation chant.
The name came from the study’s lead author Brent Tully, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii. The bubble is said to be “so huge that it spills to the edges of the sector of the sky that we were analysing”.
(With agency inputs)