The "cosmic web" is connected by enormous filaments that act as hidden bridges between galaxies. It has just been discovered that some of these filaments, which can have lengths spanning hundreds of millions of light-years, seem to be spinning, a report by Space.com explains.
A team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam in Germany published their new findings on the largest known structures in the universe in a paper in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, June 14, titled 'Possible Observational Evidence for Cosmic Filament Spin'.
The paper explains how they discovered that the cosmic filaments were rotating around their central axis like massive interstellar drills.
By analyzing data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the scientists were able to study 17,000 filaments. They found that the way galaxies moved within some of the enormous space structures suggested they were rotating around the central axis of the filaments.
The fastest speed at which researchers recorded galaxies rotating around the central axis of the filaments was approximately 223,700 mph (360,000 kph).
'Not really sure what can cause a torque on this scale'
Though Space.com speculates that the rotation may have been caused by the powerful gravitational fields of these filaments pulling in gas, dust, and other material, study coauthor Noam Libeskind told the outlet that "we're not really sure what can cause a torque on this scale."
Part of the reason behind this is that filaments are so large that it's incredibly difficult to analyze them in detail:
"There are structures so vast that entire galaxies are just specks of dust," Libeskind told Space.com. "These huge filaments are much, much bigger than clusters."
The researchers also note that the Big Bang should not have caused the spinning effect, though the study is focused mainly on outlining their observations rather than drawing any immediate conclusions.
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has helped countless studies to analyze the universe with its enormous map of the cosmos, showing some of the largest voids and filaments in the observable universe.
Not all of the observed filaments were spinning as well. Other filaments observed by the team were more static, meaning filament rotation is another mystery to add to the list of space conundrums.