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Our known universe is being tugged: Study

November 07, 2008

Bullet clustersUnknown, unseen "structures" are tugging on our universe like cosmic magnets, the National Goegraphic Channel reported on its website quoting a controversial new study.

It said everything in the known universe is said to be racing toward the massive clumps of matter at more than 3.2 million kilometers an hour -- a movement researchers have dubbed dark flow.

According to the study leader Alexander Kashlinsky, an astrophysicist at NASA's [Images] Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, the presence of the extra-universal matter suggests that our universe is part of something bigger -- a multiverse -- and that whatever is out there is very different from the universe we know, the channel said

The theory could rewrite the laws of physics. Current models say the known, or visible, universe extends as far as light could have traveled since the big bang.

In an attempt to simplify the mind-bending concept, Kashlinsky says to picture yourself floating in the middle of a vast ocean. As far as the eye can see, the ocean is smooth and the same in every direction, just as most astronomers believe the universe is. You would think that beyond the horizon, therefore, nothing is different.

"But then you discover a faint but coherent flow in your ocean," Kashlinsky said. "You would deduce that the entire cosmos is not exactly like what you can see within your own horizon."

There must be an out-of-sight mountain river or ravine pushing or pulling the water. Or in the cosmological case, Kashlinsky speculates that "this motion is caused by structures well beyond the current cosmological horizon, which is more than 14 billion light-years away."

Image: A powerful collision of galaxy clusters captured with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope. Like its famous cousin, the so-called Bullet Cluster, this clash of clusters provides striking evidence for dark matter and insight into its properties. Like the Bullet Cluster, this newly studied cluster, officially known as MACSJ0025.4-1222, shows a clear separation between dark and ordinary matter. Photograph courtesy: NASA

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