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Astronomers capture image representing dark matter web

Dark Matter Dark matter filaments bridge the space between galaxies in this false-color map. The locations of bright galaxies are shown by the white regions and the presence of a dark matter filament bridging the galaxies is shown in red. Image via RAS/ S. Epps & M. Hudson / University of Waterloo.

A group of researchers has captured what appears to be an image showing the presence of dark matter binding galaxies together like a web.

According to EarthSky, the image created by the team at the University of Waterloo is a composite image in false color showing how galaxies are interconnected by a hitherto unseen network of dark matter.

“For decades, researchers have been predicting the existence of dark matter filaments between galaxies that act like a web-like superstructure connecting galaxies together. This image moves us beyond predictions to something we can see and measure,” Mike Hudson of the University of Waterloo said.

To create the image, the team used a method called weak gravitational lensing.  Gravitational lensing is the effect by which light from a distant object is bent around an interposed object with a strong gravitational pull.  In the case of the new image, light from distant galaxies was perceived to warp around unseen masses of dark matter.

The team measured the gravitational lensing effect in a series of images collected by a multi-year sky survey at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii.  The composite image is made from lensing photos of over 23,000 galaxy pairs located about 4.5 billion light-years away.

The team found that the apparent dark matter filaments bridging the gaps between galaxies are strongest when located between systems that are less than 40 million light years apart.

“By using this technique, we’re not only able to see that these dark matter filaments in the universe exist, we’re able to see the extent to which these filaments connect galaxies together,” Epps said.

If the research stands up to the scrutiny of other astronomers it will lend further credence to the idea that dark matter exists and exerts its influence across the visible universe.

The study was published in the Royal Astronomical Society’s Monthly Notices.

Kathy Fey

Kathy Fey

Staff Writer
Kathy Fey is a freelance writer with a creative writing degree from Mount Holyoke College. She is an active blogger and erstwhile facilitator of science and engineering programs for children.
About Kathy Fey (637 Articles)
Kathy Fey is a freelance writer with a creative writing degree from Mount Holyoke College. She is an active blogger and erstwhile facilitator of science and engineering programs for children.