Moons do it. Stars do it. Even whole galaxies do it. Now, two teams of scientists say the universe’s largest known structures roll do it, too. Cosmic filaments spin. These huge threads stretch many many light-years in space and twirl like giant corkscrews.
Cosmic filaments are dense, skinny strands of substance and galaxies. They hold most of the universe’s mass. you’ll consider filaments because of the threads connecting the cosmic web. As filaments twist, they pull matter in and toward galaxy clusters at each strand’s end.
The Big Bang is that the explosion of matter that started our universe. At that instant, the matter didn’t rotate. Then, as stars and galaxies formed, they began to spin. Until now, galaxy clusters were the most important structures known to rotate.
Noam Libeskind may be a cosmologist at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam in Germany. “Conventional thinking on the topic said that’s where spin ends,” he says. Torques are the forces that produce spins. “You can’t really generate torques on larger scales,” he says.
Filaments are so big they create galaxies that appear as if specks of dust. So it’s a puzzle to get that filaments spin. “We don’t have a full theory of how every galaxy involves rotate, or every filament involves rotate,” says Mark Neyrinck. he’s a cosmologist at the University of the Basque Country. That’s in Bilbao, Spain.
To find out that filaments can rotate, Neyrinck and his colleagues used a 3-D computer model of the universe. They used it to predict the velocities of substance clumps traveling a filament.
Meanwhile, Libeskind and his colleagues looked for rotation within the real universe. The team mapped galaxies’ motions. Then the researchers measured the galaxies’ velocities perpendicular to the middle of a filament.
Although the 2 teams searched for a spin in several ways, they still found similar signs of rotational velocity. That’s “encouraging,” Neyrinck says. It suggests “that we’re watching an equivalent thing.”
Next, researchers want to tackle what makes these giant space structures spin, and the way their enormous rotation began. “What is that process?” Libeskind says. “Can we figure it out?”
A simulation shows how a cosmic filament twists galaxies and substances because it spins. Filaments pull matter into the rotation and toward clusters at their ends, visualized here with “test particles” shaped like comets.