That may sound like a line from Flash Gordon or Dr Who, but it’s actually an observation made by Damien Hutsemekers and his team at the University of Liège, Belgium, back in 2005. Quasars are the most distant objects we can see, and therefore the brightest most energetic objects in the universe. Most significant (where the observation is concerned) is how extremely far they are from each other. Being nothing more than very young and active galaxies, there should be no connection between them, so the discovery that the light they emit tends to be polarised in the same direction was weird! Furthermore, the direction of this polarisation depends on what part of the sky we’re looking at — as we swing our view from one side of the sky to the other, the alignment gradually changes!
Last year, the same team found a correlation between the polarisation and the physical orientation of the quasar. These vast powerful objects that have all formed independently, billions of light years apart, are neatly lined up in an organised patten!
Now, Robert Poltis and Dejan Stojkovic of the State University of New York in Buffalo say they have an explanation. String theory, one of the sexy new attempts to tie up all the loose ends in modern physics, says that one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe cooled enough to change phase – it crystallised into the sort of universe we have today (with gravity, electromagnetism, etc). This would result in “Strings” forming, which have magnetic fields. These fields would provide the seeds around which the first stars and galaxies formed, and would explain the alignment neatly.