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.