January 10, 2012
Dark Matter Mapped On Largest Scale Observed
Astronomers from the University of British Columbia and University of Edinburgh have mapped dark matter on the largest scale ever observed.
The findings reveal a Universe comprised of an intricate cosmic web of dark matter and galaxies that span over a billion light years across.
Researchers analyzed images of about 10 million galaxies in four different regions of the sky, and studied the distortion of the light emitted from these galaxies.
"By analyzing light from the distant Universe, we can learn about what it has travelled through on its journey to reach us," Dr Catherine Heymans, a Lecturer in the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy, said in a press release. "We hope that by mapping more dark matter than has been studied before, we are a step closer to understanding this material and its relationship with the galaxies in our Universe."
The project uses images taken from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey of over five years using the wide field imaging camera MegaCam.
The light captured by the telescope images used in the study was emitted when the Universe was six billion years old.
The findings have been speculated about for a long time from studies, but have been difficult to verify because of the invisible nature of dark matter. This is the first direct glimpse at dark matter on large scales that show the cosmic web in all directions.
"It is fascinating to be able to 'see' the dark matter using space-time distortion," Professor Ludovic Van Waerbeke, from the University of British Columbia, said in a press release. "It gives us privileged access to this mysterious mass in the Universe which cannot be observed otherwise. Knowing how dark matter is distributed is the very first step towards understanding its nature and how it fits within our current knowledge of physics."
The results were released on Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas.
Image Caption: The observations show that dark matter in the Universe is distributed as a network of gigantic dense (white) and empty (dark) regions, where the largest white regions are about the size of several Earth moons on the sky. Credit: Van Waerbeke, Heymans, and CFHTLens collaboration. [ More Images ]
On the Net:
- University of British Columbia
- University of Edinburgh
- Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey
- American Astronomical Society