Is the Universe Actually Spinning? New Research Suggests it is Becoming Pretty Chaotic

While most celestial bodies, such as planets, stars, and galaxies are said to rotate around an axis, the Universe most likely disobeys this rule. Or, at least, that’s what experts believe. However, one researcher says his most recent studies may offer evidence for the possibility of the Universe having an orbit.  

The idea that our Universe has a spinning structure has been debated by scientists for years, but it remains one of the most controversial concepts as it could disobey a fundamental idea in established physics: the cosmological principle.  

This rule says that the same physical laws apply everywhere in the Universe, besides an essentially random mix of stuff on cosmic scales of hundreds of millions of light years. An orbiting Universe would probably cause structural anisotropies and asymmetries to increase on cosmic scales, which would, therefore, breach this principle.  

Is the Universe Spinning?  

New research conducted by Lior Shamir, a computational astronomer at Kansas State University, has found potential evidence for a rotating Universe, which the author presented this week at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society.  

The basic assumption behind this model is that the young Universe span somewhat like a massive and complex galaxy, and it then sent the momentum to ancient and also more modern galaxies. Moreover, if signs of this cosmic rotation become more intense at larger distances – therefore, further back in time – it may imply that the young Universe had a more stable structure that it gradually losses as it ages. That would mean we now live in a time of growing cosmological chaos.  

The remnants of a supernova. [Image: NASA – Hubble/European Space Agency]

“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. “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.”  

Still, Shamir warned that this orbiting Universe model, which appears to suit a four-pole structure, is a ‘rather exotic’ concept of the observational information he analyzed. He notes a few other explanations for the asymmetry which ‘do not violate the basic cosmological assumptions,’ such as primordial gravitational waves 

“If the universe was born spinning, there should be some evidence to that,” Shamir said.   

But the new research is ‘not very decisive evidence’ and should not be taken as ‘ultimate proof that the Universe was born spinning,’ the astronomer explained.  

A Wild Theory  

Shamir’s study adds to previous observations that show asymmetries between the ratio of galaxies that rotate clockwise, which could indicate a broader spin of the Universe itself. If the Universe is isotopic on huge scales, as the cosmological rule suggests, then galaxies should have 50/50 chances of spinning.  

The astronomer tested out the concept using lots of datasets in Ganalyzer, a galaxy-sorting algorithm that he developed. Ganalyzer searched the information and found 88,273 clockwise galaxies and 86,075 counterclockwise galaxies in an SDSS survey and 16,508 clockwise galaxies and 16,520 clockwise galaxies in data collected by Pan-STARRS telescopes.

UGC 12591, the fastest rotating galaxy known. [Image: ESA/NASA – Hubble]
Although these results may seem pretty even at first, they generate an overall ratio of approximately 51/49 in favor of clockwise galaxies, and not the expected 50/50. Indeed, the tiny asymmetry in galaxy rotation directions could also be explained by the idea of a spinning Universe, as the concept’s model is also supported by recent studies of galaxies surprisingly spinning in the very young Universe, which violates predictions that imply it should take a few years for these galaxies to obtain rotating momentum.  

“Last year, it was rather crazy to say that a galaxy would be observed spinning 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang,” Shamir said. “But now we see them, and they are not even that rare.”  

Finally, the concept of a spinning Universe that disobeys the cosmological principle will have to be put into context by new and more advanced observations and models.  

“It’s a rather wild theory,” Shamir concluded. “But everything in cosmology is really wild.” 

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