Scientists Discover the Glistening Cosmic Web

Last week, scientists at Caltech publicized that they’d found direct indication of the intergalactic medium (IGM) made up of “dim matter,” the pale, light mix of hot gas filaments (marbled, maybe, with undetectable dark matter) that links all galaxies together. And it’s tough to overstate the significance of this discovery, in terms of scale; we’ve discovered the cosmic web, the bones of the cosmos. This simulation from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) demonstrates how galaxies form in the spinning, cloudy cosmic web:

Image Credit: Christopher Martin, Robert Hurt

The discovery of the gas filaments that make up the cosmic web has caused a relatively tame media reaction because scientists have long doubted its existence, and reporters don’t tend to have much to say about undisputed findings that approve what was already doubted—but depending on what it tells us, it may eventually turn out to be one of the most important scientific discoveries of the century. From viewing at this cosmic web, we can simply see that the galaxies that we think of as inaccessible lumps of matter moving helplessly in the deeply massive open void of dark, soundless space are actually touching each other—clinging, in a sense, to each other—as the universe stays to inflate.
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