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What is the Cosmic Web Made Of?
The cosmic web is part of the universe's large-scale structure. It is composed of dark matter, gas, and galaxies.
Dear Cosmic Explorers,
I hope this edition of our newsletter finds you in a state of wonderment as we embark on yet another voyage through the cosmos. Today, we're delving into one of the universe's grandest tapestries—the cosmic web. This intricate structure, discovered through extensive observation programs, unveils the universe's large-scale architecture and offers profound insights into its composition.
The cosmic web is anything but random. It's a foundational piece of the cosmic puzzle, comprised of dark matter, gas, and galaxies. As we peel back the layers of this cosmic onion, we'll uncover the fascinating elements that compose it.
Dark Matter: The Cosmic Scaffolding
Picture the cosmic web as a grand cathedral, and dark matter as the sturdy scaffolding upon which it's built. Dark matter, accounting for a staggering five-sixths of the web's mass, may remain hidden from the prying eyes of light, but its gravitational might hold the entire structure together. It's the cosmic glue that orchestrates the dance of galaxies and galaxy clusters across the cosmos.
The Rest: Baryons, Gas, and Galaxies
Now, let's turn our attention to the remaining one-sixth of the cosmic web. This is where the universe's more familiar matter resides, the baryons - protons, neutrons, and electrons. They manifest as intergalactic gas, stars, and interstellar dust within galaxies.
Hot and Cold Gas: The Symphony of Temperature
Gas within the cosmic web, much like the universe itself, boasts a dynamic temperature range. In galaxy clusters, it can reach temperatures in the tens of millions of degrees. This hot, ionized gas, known as the intracluster medium (ICM), emits X-rays that grace our observatories. The ICM holds the secrets of cluster formation and influences the destiny of galaxies by stripping them of their gas and stifling star formation.
In contrast, the filaments of the cosmic web connecting galaxy clusters and superclusters house cooler gas, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of degrees. This warm-hot intergalactic medium (WHIM) is more elusive, evading our direct observation due to its lower temperature and density. Nevertheless, it plays a significant role in nurturing galaxies, providing the essential ingredients for the birth of new stars.
Galaxies in the Web: The Cosmic Ensemble
Lastly, galaxies themselves are not solitary entities but rather stars in a grand cosmic ballet. They are grouped within clusters and superclusters, constantly engaging with the cosmic web's gas. Gas flows into galaxies, fueling the formation of new stars, while galactic winds, driven by supernovae and supermassive black holes, return matter to the web. These interactions hold the key to understanding the intricate evolution of galaxies.
As we peer deeper into the cosmic web, we uncover not just the cosmic constituents but the very essence of our universe's interconnectedness. It's a reminder that we are not merely observers but participants in the ongoing cosmic drama.
So, as we reflect on the cosmic web's composition, let us embrace the profound beauty and complexity of the universe. With each discovery, we inch closer to unraveling the grand mysteries of existence, and together, we continue our journey to the stars.
Keep looking up!
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