An artist’s impression of the cosmic web. It looks like a vast cobweb-like structure or mostly purple and some orange filaments on a black background.

Giant voids of nothingness may be flinging the universe apart

Gigantic deserts of almost complete nothingness that make up most of the universe may be causing the expansion of the universe to speed up, new research suggests. That means these vast tracts of nothingness could explain dark energy, the mysterious force that seems to be flinging the universe apart.

Welcome to the desert

Zoom all the way out from the solar system and the Milky Way galaxy, and an interesting pattern emerges: the cosmic web, the largest pattern found in nature. At these scales, where entire galaxies appear as little dots of lights, astronomers  observe long, thin ropes of galaxies called filaments, dense clumps called clusters, and between them all vast regions of almost total emptiness. These barren regions are the great cosmic voids, the smallest of which are 20 million light-years across, while the largest can be more than 160 million light-years across.

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