Seeing patterns in noise: gigaparsec-scale 'structures' that do not violate homogeneity

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Clowes et al. have recently reported the discovery of a large quasar group (LQG), dubbed the Huge-LQG, at redshift z ∼ 1.3 in the Data Release 7 (DR7) quasar catalogue of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. On the basis of its characteristic size ∼500 Mpc and longest dimension >1 Gpc, it is claimed that this structure is incompatible with large-scale homogeneity and the cosmological principle. If true, this would represent a serious challenge to the standard cosmological model. However, the homogeneity scale is an average property which is not necessarily affected by the discovery of a single large structure. I clarify this point and provide the first fractal dimension analysis of the DR7 quasar catalogue to demonstrate that it is in fact homogeneous above scales of at most 130 h−1 Mpc, which is much less than the upper limit for Λ cold dark matter. In addition, I show that the algorithm used to identify the Huge-LQG regularly finds even larger clusters of points, extending over Gpc scales, in explicitly homogeneous simulations of a Poisson point process with the same density as the quasar catalogue. This provides a simple null test to be applied to any cluster thus found in a real catalogue and suggests that the interpretation of LQGs as ‘structures’ is misleading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-406
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date5 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013


  • methods: statistical
  • surveys
  • quasars: general
  • cosmology: observations
  • large-scale structure of Universe


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