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The Cosmic Web

Observations and simulations of the intergalactic medium reveal the largest structures in the universe

Robert Simcoe

The biggest piece of real estate in the universe is the wide-open space between the galaxies, the intergalactic medium. It's about as empty as any place could be—only one lonely atom per cubic meter—but the intergalactic medium has had a long history of interacting with galaxies in interesting ways. Over cosmic time, the galaxies and intergalactic gas have assembled into a vast, three-dimensional "cosmic web" that defines the large-scale structure of the universe. Astronomer Robert Simcoe describes how this structure evolved and how its nature has been revealed through scientific advances in the past decade.


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