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No. 50: Mar-Apr 1987

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Mysterious Bright Arcs May Be The Largest Objects In The Universe

Several brilliant bluish arcs, some 300,000 light years long, were unexpectedly discovered during a survey of galactic clusters. R. Lynds, of Kitt Peak National Observatory, estimates that the arcs are as luminous as 100 billion suns. The nice circularity of the arcs is perplexing; and it is stated that nothing like them has been reported before. The arcs might be incandescent gas, but many astronomers opt instead for swaths of bright young stars. Spectroscopic tests will decide this point.

It has been difficult to conceive of an origin for the arcs. Are they blast waves or the results of tidal action between galaxies? No one knows, for all suggestions seem flawed. Something out there not only manipulates stupendous amounts of mass and energy but also does it with a draftsman's compass.

(Anderson, Ian; "Astronomers Spot the Biggest Objects in the Universe," New Scientist, p. 23, January 15, 1987.)

Comment. In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that some superclusters of galaxies are larger than the arcs. Also, some similar phenomena are described in our Catalog volume Stars, Galaxies, Cosmos, viz., the stacked, interleaved arcs of stars around elliptical galaxies (AWO5) and ring galaxies without significant nuclei (AWO6). To order the catalog volume just mentioned, visit: here.

Luminous arc located near the galaxy cluster 2242-02 A luminous arc located near the galaxy cluster 2242-02. (NOAO).

From Science Frontiers #50, MAR-APR 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987