Astronomers have released the first results of the map of dark matter across the cosmos. The map will eventually cover one-eighth of the sky. But the first set of data covers only 0.4% in unprecedented detail. Dark matter makes up more than 80% of the universe. But it cannot be detected even by the most sensitive instruments because it doesn’t block or emit light.
Researchers use 570MP camera to create the map
The effects of dark matter can be seen through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, which occurs when the dark matter’s gravitational pull bends light around distant galaxies. The latest map shows fibers of dark matter along with galaxies and voids in between. Findings of the study conducted by the Dark Energy Survey (DES) will be presented on Tuesday at a meeting of the American Physical Society.
The survey uses images captured by a 570-megapixel camera mounted on the Victor Blanco telescope in Chilean Andes. The survey began about two years ago, and will continue for at least another three years. Mapping something that is invisible and millions of light years away is a complicated process. Researchers rely on distortions caused by the dark matter’s gravitational lensing.
Galaxy clusters lie close to the dark matter
The newly released map shows where dark matter is concentrated in this particular portion of the sky. Vinu Vikram of Argonne National Laboratory and lead author of the study, said that the analysis so far is in agreement with the existing theories. The current cosmological theories suggest that the dark matter’s gravitational pull will pull the regular matter towards it, reports Calla Cofield of Space.com.
The map shows that the galaxy clusters lie close to the dark matter. Analysis of the clumpiness of the dark matter will allow researchers to study the nature of the dark energy, which they believe is responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe. By comparing the clumpiness of dark matter in different ages of the universe, they will be able to pinpoint the rate of expansion.