The "NULL ZONE"
- I've talked about a "Null Zone" in space...finally....Dex
August 24, 2007
WASHINGTON -- The universe has a gargantuan hole devoid of galaxies, stars, even dark matter, astronomers said Thursday.
The University of Minnesota researchers said the void is nearly a billion light-years across and they had no idea why it is there. "Not only has no one ever found a void this big, but we never even expected to find one this size," said astronomy professor Lawrence Rudnick.
Writing in the Astrophysical Journal, Rudnick and colleagues Shea Brown and Liliya Williams said they had been examining a cold spot using the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe satellite when they found the hole.
"We already knew there was something different about this spot in the sky," Rudnick said. The region stood out as being colder in a survey of the cosmic microwave background -- the faint radio buzz left over from the big bang that gave birth to the universe.
"What we've found is not normal, based on either observational studies or on computer simulations of the large-scale evolution of the universe," Williams said in a statement.
The astronomers said the region even appeared to lack dark matter, which cannot be seen directly but is usually detected by measuring gravitational forces.
The void is in a region of sky in the constellation Eridanus, southwest of Orion.
Love and Light.
Astronomers Puzzled by Massive Blank Spot in Universe Friday, August 24,
WASHINGTON � Astronomers have stumbled upon a tremendous hole in the
universe. That's got them scratching their heads about what's just not
there. The cosmic blank spot has no stray stars, no galaxies, no sucking
black holes, not even mysterious dark matter. It is 1 billion light years
across of nothing. That's an expanse of nearly 6 billion trillion miles of
emptiness, a University of Minnesota team announced Thursday.
Astronomers have known for many years that there are patches in the universe
where nobody's home. In fact, one such place is practically a neighbor, a
mere 2 million light years away. But what the Minnesota team discovered,
using two different types of astronomical observations, is a void that's far
bigger than scientists ever imagined.
"This is 1,000 times the volume of what we sort of expected to see in terms
of a typical void," said Minnesota astronomy professor Lawrence Rudnick,
author of the paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal. "It's
not clear that we have the right word yet ... This is too much of a
Rudnick was examining a sky survey from the National Radio Astronomy
Observatory, which essentially takes radio pictures of a broad expanse of
the universe. But one area of the universe had radio pictures indicating
there was up to 45 percent less matter in that region, Rudnick said.
The rest of the matter in the radio pictures can be explained as stars and
other cosmic structures between here and the void, which is about 5 to 10
billion light years away.
Rudnick then checked observations of cosmic microwave background radiation
and found a cold spot. The only explanation, Rudnick said, is it's empty of
It could also be a statistical freak of nature, but that's probably less
likely than a giant void, said James Condon, an astronomer at the National
Radio Astronomy Observatory. He wasn't part of Rudnick's team but is
following up on the research.
"It looks like something to be taken seriously," said Brent Tully, a
University of Hawaii astronomer who wasn't part of this research but studies
the void closer to Earth.
Tully said astronomers may eventually find a few cosmic structures in the
void, but it would still be nearly empty.
Holes in the universe probably occur when the gravity from areas with bigger
mass pull matter from less dense areas, Tully said. After 13 billion years
"they are losing out in the battle to where there are larger concentrations
of matter," he said.
Retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran said of the discovery: "This is
incredibly important for something where there is nothing to it."
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]