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Zidbits – Learn something new everyday! | September 2, 2014

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Top 10 Biggest Things In The Universe

Top 10 Biggest Things In The Universe

Standing next to the pyramids, one cannot help but marvel at their size. The Burj Dubai, standing over a half mile tall, is equally stunning as it rises into the clouds. Towering above them both is the monstrous, and often deadly, Mt. Everest.

Yet, compared to some of the things that exist in our universe, they are absolutely microscopic. Today, we will explore the largest things in the universe based on their relative sizes.

11. Largest Asteroid

Ceres is the largest asteroid we’ve discovered so far. It contains 1/3rd the mass of the entire asteroid belt and is almost 600 miles in diameter. It’s about the size of California and is massive enough that its own gravity forces it into a spherical shape. It’s so large that it also has earned the title of ‘Dwarf Planet’. It’s the only object in the asteroid belt big enough to earn the designation.

10. Largest Planet

TRES4

Located in the constellation Hercules, planet TRES4 is 70% larger than Jupiter in diameter, but has only 80% of Jupiter’s mass. Because of how close it orbits to its sun, it is thought that the intense heat expand the gasses that make up this planet, resulting in an almost ‘marshmallow-like’ density. It holds the title of the largest planet we’ve discovered so far.

Update: Science is never finished. Since this list was compiled, observations of an exoplanet called WASP-17b suggest that it is even bigger than TRES4. Despite its radius being twice that of Jupiter’s, it only has half the mass. This makes it even “fluffier” than TRES4.

9. Largest Star

VY Canis Majors

VY Canis Majoris is the largest star (in diameter) that we know of. It’s in a class of star known as Red Hyper Giants. It’s 1,420 times the sun’s radius and would take the world’s fastest race car 2,600 years to circle it once. If you replaced our Sun with VY Canis Majoris, its surface would extend out beyond Saturn. (see picture to the right for comparison to our own sun).

Update: In 2013, NML Cygni was verified as the largest known star. It’s a whopping 1,650 times our sun’s radius. That is so large; it would take a beam of light 6 hours and 40 minutes to circle it once.

8. Largest Black Hole

Black holes are not physically large regions of space. But when you include their mass, they are among the top competitors for the largest things in the universe. And quasar OJ287 is the largest black hole we’ve spotted.Black Hole at the center of NGC1277 It’s estimated to be 18 billion times the mass of our sun and is a supermassive black hole located in the center of a galaxy. To put that in perspective, it’s an object larger than our entire solar system. Just how big can a black hole get? According to scientists, there is no theoretical upper limit.

Update: 11/28/2012 – Science never fails to keep impressing us with its newest discoveries. Researchers at the University of Texas, using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, have discovered what they claim to be the largest supermassive black hole yet. The black hole, a whopping 17 billion solar masses, resides at the center of galaxy NGC 1277. That is so huge, it accounts for 14% of the entire galaxy’s mass. The event horizon is 11x the diameter of Neptune’s orbit around our sun – that’s a radius of over 300 AU.

7. Largest Galaxy

IC1101 Galaxy
A super galaxy is a galaxy that has merged with many others and they sit in the middle of galaxy clusters. The largest that we’ve discovered so far is the IC1101 super galaxy. It is 6 million light years across. Compare that to the Milky Way which is a mere 100 thousand light years across. IC1101 is a staggering 60 times larger than our own.

6. Radio Lobes

radio lobesRadio lobes are powered by the accretion disk of supermassive black holes. These supermassive black holes can be found at the center of most galaxies. As material gets consumed by a black hole, some energy and matter is flung away at high speeds which occur at the poles of black holes.

These emissions are in the form of radio energy jets which can be seen with a radio telescope. The largest is located in the galaxy is 3C236 which is located in the constellation Leo Minor. Its jets span 40 million light years across. The jets from end to end are by far larger than any galaxy.

5. Lyman Alpha Blobs

lymen Blob

These blobs are a very short lived phase of the birth of galaxy clusters. They are amorphous objects filled with gas that haven’t fully coalesced and are not bound or set gravitationally yet. As these blobs age, they will condense and eventually form giant collections of galaxies.

Lyman Alpha blobs resemble amoebas or jellyfish in shape. The largest one that we have spotted is 200 million light years wide and is located in the constellation Aquarius.

4. The Boötes Void

the voidGalaxies usually reside in clusters. Even our own Milky Way does. These clusters are lightly gravitationally bound and expanding along with space/time itself in groups.

But what about the areas where they don’t reside? Enter the Boötes Void. This region of ‘nothingness’ is a whopping 250 million light years across. That’s 2,500 milky way galaxies placed side by side. Voids are like holes in our universe, and the Boötes Void is the largest.


3. Shapley Super Cluster

shapley Galaxy

The Shapley supercluster is a collection of galaxies some 400+ million light years long. Our own Milky Way galaxy is roughly 4,000 times smaller. The supercluster is so big, that our fastest spacecraft would spend trillions of years trying to cross it.

It is the most massive gravitationally bound object that we currently know of. Being gravitationally bound means that as the universe continues to expand, the gravity between the galaxies in this cluster are strong enough overcome that expansion, keeping them together forever.

2. The Huge-LQG

Discovered in January of 2013, the Huge-LGQ (Huge Large Quasar Group) is said to be the largest structure in the universe. The Huge Large Quasar GroupThe Huge-LQG is a collection of 73 confirmed quasars (a quasar is a very energetic galaxy). Astronomers discovered that the group of gravitationally bound quasars is so large that it would take over 4 billion years to traverse from end to end – while traveling at light speed.

It’s so big, that its very existence puts it at odds with Einstein’s Cosmological Principle. The cosmological principle says that, when looking at the universe from a large enough scale, it should look the exact same no matter where you are observing from, or where you look. The Huge-LGQ throws a wrench into that assumption. Researchers are understandably fascinated by the discovery and are eager to continue their investigations.

1. The Cosmic Web

cosmic webMost astronomers agree that the biggest thing in the universe is the cosmic web. It’s an endless scaffolding of galaxy clusters surrounded by dark matter and resembles a three dimensional spiderweb. Clusters of galaxies and dark matter make up “hubs” and filaments of galaxies connect these hubs producing a web like appearance. (see side picture)

How big is the web? If the Milky Way galaxy was a poppy seed, then the cosmic web of the observable universe would be the size of the Rose Bowl stadium.

Photos by NASA and Wikicommons and are available under a Creative Commons Attribution license

Comments

  1. pepsi813

    Just by reading this, there has to be other life forms out there. I believe there is. I just hope they’re logical and empathetic creatures like us.

    • Gerard

      The size of Ceres is remarkable. Also what I never knew about was that void. amazing.

    • Smasher4

      There HAS to be other life out there.

    • Phillip

      If they are, then we are all screwed when they find us.

      • Justin

        There may or not be other life forms, but who says we’re screwed? We might possibly be for some reason the most technologically advanced beings in existence! Who knows the possibilities out there, and we haven’t even physically explored 0.000000000000000000001% and less of OUR universe.

      • Damian

        Why would we be screwed? Why would they harm us? What if they don’t even spend time studying our existence and just let us live? What if WE find them and harm them?

      • lostn

        Actually, if anyone is screwed, it’s them.

        • Cosmic Eye

          No one will be screwed. I would do all in my power to never allow the human race to harm another life form that is not from earth. That would be the dumbest thing the humans could possibly choose to do. Right now we don’t have a galactic reputation. It’s best to keep it that way. If I was the ruler of a civilization, I would find the force with the worst reputation to annihilate/take over.

    • Our best estimate is that 1 in every 100 planets that could support life have life on them. With the Hubble telescope we have discovered over 20,000 planets that could support life, which means we have already found over 200 planets with life. Estimates are that if we extend that to the rest of our galaxy, we would find over 1,000,000,000 planets that could support life. This means in our galaxy alone, there is over 10,000,000 planets with life on them. Now extend that to the over 1,000,000,000,000 galaxies in the visible universe.

      • What???

        “1% of the planets that could support life have life on them” – That is just NOT KNOWN! We don’t yet understand how life originate on earth…
        “20,000 planets that could support life discovered by the Hubble Space telescope” – Most of the planets discovered up to date have been discovered by the Kepler and CoRoT spacecraft and ground base telescope. There are around 800 planets discovered by now, Hubble Space Telescope have discovered some of them but has been mainly used for characterizing the atmosphere of a handfull of close-in planets.

        Please stop saying crap.

    • Juanny

      Do you REALLY want them to be like us though? When you think about it, sure, we are amazing in so many different ways, but if you look at the other side… We are cruel, and we fight over almost anything. We have more hate than love, and look where at has got us. Lets just hope that they are somewhat like us, but even if they are a little different, that is okay!

      • Damian

        You just described rasicm with that last sentence… We do the same, no matter what the color of your skin is, everybody accepts you (aside from a few racist people). ;)

    • Steve

      Me too – and it may be in our best interests we are never located. I will paraphrase Stephen Hawking, “is it wise to yell out in the jungle?”

    • Sciencegirlz

      I know, what if there were life forms out there? Well there are. You can’t say they aren’t — there are billions apron billions of galaxy’s out there. Why wouldn’t there be extra terrestrial beings?

  2. kaylyn

    Hello, I love your website! So much fun learning off your site!

  3. Correction

    Correction: Cluststers should obviously be Clusters

  4. jhhh

    Wow, VY Canis Major is absolutely huge!

    • Barack

      As we look up into the sky and venture to the deep space with our eye, there is something that isn’t what is seems, for example if we look at Vega (wich is 25 ly away) we see at it as it was 25 years ago, which means, that when we see VY Canis Majoris as it was 3 900 years ago, depending of its state as a red giant, it could have vanished years ago :)

  5. justinpatrick1011

    The largest Star is now NML Cygni.

  6. All I know is that the cosmic web is the biggest thing I’ll ever know from now on! DAMN!

  7. brogan

    This website makes me smart & better at maths and science. That’s not cool. :0

  8. Wow, this is very interesting… things this massive that exist. However, how was all of this discovered? Oh, and of course there is other life out there somewhere, perhaps much more intelligent than even mankind.

  9. mike

    Anyone who thinks of life existing on other planets as an unknown to be questioned is pretty silly. Even if it isn’t as advanced, life does indeed exist out there. It’s just a question of where, what type, and if we will ever reach it in the near future.

    Great article as well, this is very cool stuff.

    • levi

      You can’t say that definitively, you just do not know. Yes, there is a possibility, but that’s it. It is not a fact, it has not been proven to be true.

  10. trick

    Well the biggest planet is JK987. It’s is bigger than TRES4.

  11. Johndric Valdez

    New update for black holes: In December 2011, a black hole was discovered in NGC 4889, weighing at 21 billion solar masses. It was much larger than OJ 287′s 18 billion solar mass black hole and NGC 1277′s 17 billion solar mass black hole.

  12. Christian

    Wait… Ceres is 25% the mass of the asteroid belt but the asteroid belt put together is only 2.5 times the size of Ceres? Wouldn’t that mean Ceres is 250% the mass of the asteroid belt?

  13. cecil

    A man takes a ping pong ball from a dust free room and throws it into the air. He catches it on its return and find that it has gathered dust and a little insect. He then takes a million ping pong balls from the dust free room and throws them in the air and wonders to himself will there be dust and insects on them. OF COURSE THERE IS LIFE OUT THERE!

  14. Gavin Sidhu

    The largest thing discovered in science is the Great Sloan Wall, a filament. It’s about 1 billion light years from us and is many light years in diameter.

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