Introducing Barnard 68: Rumors on the web claim it’s an immense cosmic emptiness, suggesting a journey across it would mean not encountering anything for 752,536,988 years.
While refraining from defining a speed is clever (indeed, moving at a snail’s pace would likely mean no collisions in those 752,536,988 years), this isn’t the reality. The picture you observe represents the authentic dark nebula, Barnard 68. So proximate at 400 light-years, there’s no observable space between it and our Sun.
This snapshot was captured by the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in March 1999. Contrary to the appearance, it’s teeming with stars. The molecular cloud makes them invisible in this visible light snapshot.
Using infrared imaging, the stars emerge: To call this a cosmic void due to the obscurity of the dark nebula is akin to denying the Sun’s existence because of overcast skies. Yet, enthusiasts of vast cosmic voids, fear not!
The vastness of space holds countless enigmas. One notable example is the Boötes Void, sometimes termed the Great Nothing or the Great Void. It’s a specific cosmic region where galaxies are scarcer than anticipated. Spanning 250 to 330 million light-years, it ranks among the biggest voids we’re aware of.
To grasp its enormity, it’s roughly 2% of our observable universe’s diameter. First identified in 1981 during a redshift galaxy survey, researchers unveiled their findings in a paper named “A million cubic megaparsec void in Boötes?”.
They highlighted the potential deduction from their data indicating an area “almost barren of galaxies.” Over time, researchers pinpointed galaxies within this expanse, and by 1997, about 60 were affirmed in the Great Nothing where around 2,000 should be present (assuming uniformity in space).
While the void doesn’t necessarily challenge our galaxy formation theories—one hypothesis suggests it arose from the confluence of smaller voids—it’s intriguing to imagine how the universe might appear to someone situated within this void.