Galaxy filaments, walls and voids form web-like structures. Computer simulation.

In cosmology, galaxy filaments are the largest known structures in the universe, consisting of walls of galactic superclusters. These massive, thread-like formations can commonly reach 50/h to 80/h Megaparsecs (160 to 260 megalight-years)—with the largest found to date being the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall at around 3 gigaparsecs (9.8 Gly) in length—and form the boundaries between voids.[1] Due to the accelerating expansion of the universe, the individual clusters of gravitationally bound galaxies that make up galaxy filaments are moving away from each other at an accelerated rate; in the far future they will dissolve.[2]

Galaxy filaments form the cosmic web and define the overall structure of the observable universe.[3][4][5]


Discovery of structures larger than superclusters began in the late 1980s. In 1987, astronomer R. Brent Tully of the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy identified what he called the Pisces–Cetus Supercluster Complex. The CfA2 Great Wall was discovered in 1989,[6] followed by the Sloan Great Wall in 2003.[7]

In January 2013, researchers led by Roger Clowes of the University of Central Lancashire announced the discovery of a large quasar group, the Huge-LQG, which dwarfs previously discovered galaxy filaments in size.[8] In November 2013, using gamma-ray bursts as reference points, astronomers discovered the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall, an extremely large filament measuring more than 10 billion light-years across.[9][10][11]


The filament subtype of filaments have roughly similar major and minor axes in cross-section, along the lengthwise axis.

Filaments of Galaxies
Filament Date Mean distance Dimension Notes
Coma Filament The Coma Supercluster lies within the Coma Filament.[12] It forms part of the CfA2 Great Wall.[13]
Perseus–Pegasus Filament 1985 Connected to the Pisces–Cetus Supercluster, with the Perseus–Pisces Supercluster being a member of the filament.[14]
Ursa Major Filament Connected to the CfA Homunculus, a portion of the filament forms a portion of the "leg" of the Homunculus.[15]
Lynx–Ursa Major Filament (LUM Filament) 1999 from 2000 km/s to 8000 km/s in redshift space Connected to and separate from the Lynx–Ursa Major Supercluster.[15]
z=2.38 filament around protocluster ClG J2143-4423 2004 z=2.38 110 Mpc A filament the length of the Great Wall was discovered in 2004. As of 2008, it was still the largest structure beyond redshift 2.[16][17][18][19]

Galaxy walls

The galaxy wall subtype of filaments have a significantly greater major axis than minor axis in cross-section, along the lengthwise axis.

Walls of Galaxies
Wall Date Mean distance Dimension Notes
CfA2 Great Wall (Coma Wall, Great Wall, Northern Great Wall, Great Northern Wall, CfA Great Wall) 1989 z=0.03058 251 Mpc long: 750 Mly long
250 Mly wide
20 Mly thick
This was the first super-large large-scale structure or pseudo-structure in the universe to be discovered. The CfA Homunculus lies at the heart of the Great Wall, and the Coma Supercluster forms most of the homunculus structure. The Coma Cluster lies at the core.[22][23]
Sloan Great Wall (SDSS Great Wall) 2003 z=0.07804 433 Mpc long This was the largest known galaxy filament to be discovered,[22] until it was eclipsed by the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall found ten years later.
Sculptor Wall (Southern Great Wall, Great Southern Wall, Southern Wall) 8000 km/s long
5000 km/s wide
1000 km/s deep (in redshift space dimensions)
The Sculptor Wall is "parallel" to the Fornax Wall and "perpendicular" to the Grus Wall.[24][25]
Grus Wall The Grus Wall is "perpendicular" to the Fornax and Sculptor Walls.[25]
Fornax Wall The Fornax Cluster is part of this wall. The wall is "parallel" to the Sculptor Wall and "perpendicular" to the Grus Wall.[24][25]
Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall 2013 z≈2[10] 3 Gpc long,[10]
150 000 km/s deep[10]
(in redshift space)
The largest known structure in the universe.[9][10][11] This is also the first time since 1991 that a galaxy filament/great wall held the record as the largest known structure in the universe.

Map of nearest galaxy walls

The Universe within 500 million light years, showing the nearest galaxy walls

Large Quasar Groups

Large quasar groups (LQGs) are some of the largest structures known.[31] They are theorized to be protohyperclusters/proto-supercluster-complexes/galaxy filament precursors.[32]

Large Quasar Groups
LQG Date Mean distance Dimension Notes
Clowes–Campusano LQG
(U1.28, CCLQG)
1991 z=1.28
  • longest dimension: 630 Mpc
It was the largest known structure in the universe from 1991 to 2011, until U1.11's discovery.
U1.11 2011 z=1.11
  • longest dimension: 780 Mpc
Was the largest known structure in the universe for a few months, until Huge-LQG's discovery.
Huge-LQG 2012 z=1.27
  • characteristic size: 500 Mpc
  • longest dimension: 1.24 Gpc
It was the largest structure known in the universe,[31][32] until the discovery of the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall found one year later.[10]

Supercluster complex

Pisces–Cetus Supercluster Complex

Maps of large-scale distribution

See also


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Further reading