In a January 11, 2024 article titled “Huge Ring of Galaxies Challenges Thinking on Cosmos,” the BBC describes how PhD student Alexia Lopez, of the University of Central Lancashire, recently discovered a gigantic, ring-shaped structure composed of galaxies and galaxy clusters. And when they say it is gigantic, they mean it—as in, one of the largest stellar “objects” known to exist!
Named the Big Ring, this massive structure requires a measuring stick with more than inches, feet, or even miles. Light-years are needed—the distance light, the fastest thing in the universe, travels in a year (almost six trillion miles). According to the BBC article, the Big Ring “is 1.3bn light-years in diameter” and “is so big it challenges our understanding of the universe…. Such large structures should not exist, according to one of the guiding principles of astronomy, called the cosmological principle. This states that all matter is spread smoothly across the Universe.”
The Big Ring discovery adds another large item to the list of largest known objects in the universe (see the Tomorrow’s World article “Scientists Puzzled by Structures in the Universe”). Another BBC article, published on March 3, 2023, and updated on January 12, 2024, is titled “Cosmic Megastructures: The Largest Objects in the Universe” and describes structures such as the Giant Arc (spanning 3.3 billion light-years), the Great Wall (500 million light-years), and the Sloan Great Wall (1.5 billion light-years). Currently, the title for “the biggest thing in the universe” belongs to the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, which spans 10 billion light-years—more than a tenth of the observable universe of 93 billion light-years!
Needless to say, these objects are enormous, massive, gigantic colossal, and immense—in every sense of these words. Consider a bit of math. If a light-year is about six trillion miles and the Big Ring spans about 1.3 billion light-years, this equates to (I pulled out my phone to calculate and then moved to a spreadsheet) 7,800,000,000,000,000,000,000 regular miles. The planet we call home has a diameter of about 8,000 miles, which is like a speck of dust in our solar system, which is like a speck of dust in the Milky Way galaxy, which is like a speck of dust compared to the Big Ring. The vastness of the universe truly is mind-boggling!
Both the Big Ring and the Giant Arc appear relatively close together, near the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman. Professor Don Pollacco, of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick, said the likelihood of this occurring is vanishingly small, so the two objects might be related and form an even larger structure. “So the question is how do you make such large structures? It’s incredibly hard to conceive of any mechanism that could produce these structures” (“Huge Ring of Galaxies Challenges Thinking on Cosmos”).
Though he may disagree, answering Professor Pollacco’s question of how such large structures are made has to do with something even bigger—in this case, Someone.
King David wrote, “The heavens tell of the glory of God; and their expanse declares the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1, New American Standard Bible). The New King James Version says that the heavens “declare” the glory of God. To “declare” is “to make known formally, officially, or explicitly” (“Declare,” Merriam-Webster.com). Like his father, King Solomon described the “bigness” of God in his own prayer: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27).
The vastness and striking beauty of the heavens allow the power, glory, and magnificence of God to be known. The prophet Isaiah described how the Creator “stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:22). God “stretches out” the proverbial fabric of the universe like we would a window curtain. And, as scientists discover glimmers of the glorious heavens, we glimpse the textures and designs of God’s curtain, which He carefully, artistically, and exquisitely designed and knit together. Then, with a colossal hand, He stretched out the curtain, perhaps hanging it on a few Big Rings.
If you’d like to read more about the vastness of the cosmos and its Creator, please read the Tomorrow’s World article “How Big is the Universe?”