Largest dark matter map in the universe to date is published in Science & Tech News


The largest dark matter map in the universe to date has been published.

Dark matter, which cannot be observed from Earth, probably makes up about 80% of the matter in the universe.

A team of scientists from the international Dark Energy Survey (DES) created the new map, which covers a quarter of the sky in the southern hemisphere.

A depth field image of one of the regions of space analyzed to draw the dark matter map

They did it by studying how light from distant galaxies was distorted on its way to Earth.

The presence of dark matter would bend the rays towards us.

Artificial intelligence analyzed the data to create the map.

About 100 million galaxies were observed for the project. According to NASA, there are 100 billion stars in the Milky Way alone.

The DES team was led by researchers from University College London.

Dr. Niall Jeffrey of UCL’s Physics and Astronomy Department was a lead author on the project.

He said, “Most of the matter in the universe is dark matter. It is a real miracle to look at these huge, hidden structures over much of the night sky.

“These structures are revealed through the distorted shapes of hundreds of millions of distant galaxies with photographs from the Dark Energy Camera in Chile.

“In our map, which mainly shows dark matter, we see a pattern similar to only visible matter, a network-like structure with dense lumps of matter separated by large empty cavities.

“Observing these cosmic structures can help us answer fundamental questions about the universe.”

The existence of dark matter can be inferred from the way galaxies move – they stay together and those in clusters move faster than expected.

Another author of the paper, Professor Ofer Lahav, chairman of the DES UK consortium and member of the UCL physics and astronomy team, said: “Visible galaxies form in the densest regions of dark matter.

“When we look at the night sky, we see the light of the galaxy, but not the surrounding dark matter, like when we look at the lights of a city at night.

The region in purple is the plotted dark matter map overlaid on an image of the Milky Way. Image: Collaboration on Dark Energy Survey
The region in purple is the plotted dark matter map overlaid on an image of the Milky Way

“By calculating how gravity distorts light, a technique known as gravitational lenses, we get the whole picture, both visible and invisible matter.

“This brings us closer to understanding what the universe is made of and how it evolved.

“It also shows the power of artificial intelligence to analyze one of the largest data sets in astronomy.”

Research by DES has supported the standard cosmological model of how the universe works.

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