Although planets, stars, and galaxies all spin along an axis of rotation, new research suggests that the universe itself might also revolve around an axis, or several, but on a cosmic scale challenging one of the fundamental assumptions of astrophysics, the cosmological principle, which holds that the same physical laws are homogeneous and uniform, isotropic, everywhere in the universe. This exotic new theory paints a picture of a spinning universe that creates structural anisotropies and asymmetries on cosmic scales of hundreds of millions of light years.
Enter one Lior Shamir, a computational astronomer at Kansas State University, who presented evidence that has yet to be peer reviewed at the recent virtual Zoom meeting of the American Astronomical Society that the early universe rotated like an enormous, complex galaxy, and continued this momentum through the galaxies we see today, hinting that the early universe had a more uniform structure that it has been steadily losing through time, resulting in an increasingly chaotic cosmos.
200,000 Spiral Galaxies
Shamir’s hypothesis used an algorithm that categorized the spin directions of roughly 200,000 spiral galaxies observed by two different telescopes –SDSS and Pan-STARRS. The results he posted on the preprint server arXiv on April 6, 2020 agree with previous observations that show an asymmetric relationship between galaxies with opposite spin directions, indicating rotating universe. Shamir combines a broad range of methods in machine learning, soft computing, and computational statistics to develop new paradigms that can turn data into knowledge and scientific discoveries.
“According to the cosmological principle, everything is a random blend of galaxies and matter, and you’re not supposed to see any structure,” said Shamir in a call with Becky Ferreira for Motherboard Science. “Here, we see structure and the scale is much, much larger than any astrophysical structure that we know of. The statistical signals and patterns are very clear.”
Flips the Isotropic Model
Shamir cautioned that “If the universe was born spinning, there should be some evidence to that,” Shamir said, noting that his study presents a potential datapoint but not ultimate evidence for this rotational cosmic model that would overturn the standard, current isotropic model of the universe.
Still Spinning 1.5 Billion Years After Big Bang
“Last year, it was rather crazy to say that a galaxy would be observed spinning 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang,” Shamir told Ferreira. “But now we see them, and they are not even that rare.”
In his ArXiv paper, Multipole alignment in the large-scale distribution of spin direction of spiral galaxies, Shmir’s analysis shows in both SDSS and Pan-STARRS that the distribution of galaxy spin directions forms a non-random pattern, and can be fitted to a dipole axis in probability much higher than mere chance. These observations agree with previous findings, but are based on more data and two different telescopes. The analysis also shows that the distribution of galaxy spin directions fits a large-scale multipole alignment, with best fit to quadrupole alignment with probability of ∼6.9σ to have such distribution by chance. Comparison of two separate datasets from SDSS and Pan-STARRS such that the galaxies in both datasets have similar redshift distribution provides nearly identical quadrupole patterns.
The image at the top of the page is the newest version of Hubble’s deep-field image. It took researchers at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias almost three years to produce this deepest image of the Universe ever taken from space, by recovering a large quantity of ‘lost’ light (shown in dark grey) around the largest galaxies in the iconic Hubble Ultra-Deep Field.