By Paul Sutter
At the very largest scales — zooming out from solar systems, stellar clusters and even galaxies — a surprising pattern emerges in nature. When you zoom out far enough that entire galaxies (each one home to hundreds of billions of stars) are just single dots of light, you’ll find … a web. Long, thin ropes of galaxies millions of light-years long. Dense, compact, massive knots of thousands of galaxies — the clusters. Broad, thick walls and sheets of even more galaxies.
The cosmic web.
The cosmic web is the largest pattern found in nature. It completely fills the universe. It’s an immense, vast, almost overbearing structure, yet it appears as fragile and delicate as strands of pure silk.
And sitting among the latticeworks of the web, between the walls and knots and filaments, are the great cosmic voids. Stretching anywhere from 20 million to hundreds of millions of light-years across, these are the true deserts of the cosmos, almost entirely devoid of matter. By sheer volume, most of our universe is simply … nothing.
And when it comes to understanding the universe, “nothing” is very powerful.
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