Saturday science subject: A hole in the universe

— 2:30 PM on September 1, 2007

Astronomers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis have discovered what they say is the biggest void in the universe. As the New Scientist reports, the void is close to a billion light years across and is apparently devoid of either matter or dark matter.

This void was discovered accidentally by Astronomy Professor Lawrence Rudnick and his team as they studied data from the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico.

The team was in for a surprise. They saw little or no radio sources in a volume that is about 280 megaparsecs or nearly a billion light years in diameter. The lack of radio sources means that there are no galaxies or clusters in that volume, and the fact that the CMB is cold there suggests the region lacks dark matter, too.

The void, which is about 6 billion to 10 billion light years away, is considerably larger than any found before. Until now, optical surveys have found no voids larger than 80 megaparsecs wide – making the new hole 40 times larger in volume than the previous record holder.

The void's presence confirms the existence of dark energy, according to Rudnick.

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