Astronomers discover largest-ever dark matter structures spanning 270M light-years

Feb 21, 2008

A University of British Columbia astronomer with an international team has discovered the largest structures of dark matter ever seen. Measuring 270 million light-years across, these dark matter structures criss-cross the night sky, each spanning an area that is eight times larger than the full moon.

“The results are a major leap forward since the presence of a cosmic dark matter web that extends over such large distances has never been observed before,” says Ludovic Van Waerbeke, an assistant professor in the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy.

To glimpse the unseen structures, the team of French and Canadian scientists “X-rayed” the dark matter, an invisible web that makes up more than 80 per cent of the mass of the universe.

The team used a recently developed technique called “weak gravitational lensing,” which is similar to taking an X-ray of the body to reveal the underlying skeleton. The study relied on data gathered from the world’s largest digital camera.

“This new knowledge is crucial for us to understand the history and evolution of the cosmos,” says Van Waerbeke. “Such a tool will also enable us to glimpse a little more of the nature of dark matter.”

The astronomers observed how light from distant galaxies is bent and distorted by webs of dark matter as it travels toward Earth. They then mapped dark matter structures by measuring the distortions seen in these galaxy light patterns.

The study involved 19 researchers from 11 institutions and was led by UBC, the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, the Universite Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) and the University of Victoria. Van Waerbeke and his co-authors will publish their findings in a forthcoming issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. The submission can be seen at: arxiv.org/abs/0712.0884 .

The team spent several years developing the gravitational lensing tool, which is one of the major goals of the Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope (CFHT) Legacy Survey.

The gravitational lensing technique also played a pivotal role in another recent study: Astronomers produce first detailed map of dark matter in a supercluster -- phys.org/news119182387.html

Source: University of British Columbia

Explore further: Image: Hubble views the whirling disk of NGC 4526

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Astronomy & Astrophysics: Planck 2013 results

23 hours ago

Astronomy & Astrophysics is publishing a special feature of 31 articles describing the data gathered by Planck over 15 months of observations and released by ESA and the Planck Collaboration in March 2013. ...

New radio telescope ready to probe

Oct 21, 2014

Whirring back and forth on a turning turret, the white, 40-foot dish evokes the aura of movies such as "Golden Eye" or "Contact," but the University of Arizona team of scientists and engineers that commissioned ...

POLARBEAR seeks cosmic answers in microwave polarization

Oct 21, 2014

An international team of physicists has measured a subtle characteristic in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation that will allow them to map the large-scale structure of the universe, ...

NASA image: Fires in the Egypt River Delta

Oct 20, 2014

This NASA satellite image is of the Egyptian River Delta. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS's thermal bands, are outlined in red. Each hot spot, which appears as a red mark, is an area where the thermal ...

Scientists build first map of hidden universe

Oct 16, 2014

A team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has created the first three-dimensional map of the 'adolescent' Universe, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This map, built from ...

Recommended for you

Hubble sees 'ghost light' from dead galaxies

10 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has picked up the faint, ghostly glow of stars ejected from ancient galaxies that were gravitationally ripped apart several billion years ago. The mayhem happened ...

When did galaxies settle down?

16 hours ago

Astronomers have long sought to understand exactly how the universe evolved from its earliest history to the cosmos we see around us in the present day. In particular, the way that galaxies form and develop ...

Image: Hubble views the whirling disk of NGC 4526

17 hours ago

This neat little galaxy is known as NGC 4526. Its dark lanes of dust and bright diffuse glow make the galaxy appear to hang like a halo in the emptiness of space in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space ...

Planet-forming lifeline discovered in a binary star system

Oct 29, 2014

Scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have detected a streamer of dust and gas flowing from a massive outer disk toward the inner reaches of a binary star system. This never-before-seen ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RAL
not rated yet Feb 22, 2008
Oh yes Physorg! Give us more like this. And with the links to reglated stories. Excellent job.

Here's a reference I found that does a good job of going through lensing basics with nice graphics included:
http://www.cita.u...ing.html

And if you go to the arxiv.org link noted in the article you can click on the pdf link in the right column and get the whole article. Nice!
vlam67
1 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2008
.. A University of British Columbia astronomer with an international team has discovered the largest structures of dark matter ever seen.


I expect a science site like physorg to be more precise in the wording. Dark matter can be detected and illustrated by various means, but not "seen" in the strict human optical sense.
mike352
not rated yet Feb 23, 2008
Notice that Physorg writes very very few articles on this site. This site is just a compilation of articles written by universities, the AP, and other organizations. Look at the bottom of this article. This one comes from the University of British Columbia, for example.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.