What 600 Billion Billion Kilometers of Quasar Light Looks LikeS

This might look like a strange microscopic image, or even an aerial view of a sprawling city late at night—but in fact it's what a 600-billion-billion-kilometre-wide section of the universe looks like.

Modelled by a team of scientists at the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, the image shows the light thrown out of quasars as it propagates through our universe. These astronomical bodies, powered by black holes, emit light which is twisted and warped as it passes through galaxies and gas clouds. The red patches are galaxies, the blue strands gas clouds.

The researchers model what they think might be happening—which is what this images shows—and compare it to experimental results to check that they're thinking in the right way. The simulation shown here spans a frankly incredible distance of 65 million light years—or 600 billion billion kilometres. Just a snapshot, really, given the entire universe is 10 trillion kilometres across. [New Scientist]