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No. 110: Mar-Apr 1997

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The Crystalline Universe

Cosmologists think in the large. Billions of stars are nothing to them. The megaparsec (3,528,000 light years) is but a hop, skip, and jump. A pressing question for these cosmologists searching for the really big picture is whether there is any order in the distribution of galaxies, galactic clusters, and superclusters. The scale of organization of the universe is of critical importance because it is a measure of state of the cosmos when hydrogen atoms first condensed from the seething sea of ions following the Big Bang. The prevailing expectation has been that galactic clusters and superclusters should be distributed at random; that is, no order prevails at that scale. Recent redshift measurements, however, hint more and more forcefully that the huge superclusters of galaxies are almost as neatly arranged as the atoms in a crystal.

A recent paper in Nature by J. Einasto et al puts a number on the spacing of the superclusters:

"Here, using a new compilation of available data on galaxy clusters, we present evidence for a quasi-regular three-dimensional network of rich superclusters and voids, with the regions of high density separated by "120 Mpc [megaparsecs]. If this reflects the distribution of all matter (luminous and dark), then there must exist some hitherto unknown process that produces regular structure on large scales."

(Einasto, J., et al; "A 120-Mpc Periodicity in the Three-Dimensional Distribution of Galaxy Superclusters," Nature, 385:139, 1997.)

Comment. Hmmm! A "hitherto unknown process." It appears that our science is still incomplete, despite what some science writers have insisted recently.

Reference. Chapter AWB in our catalog: Stars, Galaxies, Cosmos describes several other galaxy-distribution anomalies. For more on this book, visit here.

From Science Frontiers #110, MAR-APR 1997. 1997-2000 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