The researchers say dark matter is believed to account for 85 percent of the universe's mass but has remained invisible to telescopes since scientists, more than 75 years ago, inferred its existence from its gravitational effects.
Now the Virgo Consortium has used a massive computer simulation of the evolution of a galaxy to "see" gamma rays given off by dark matter.
The scientists say their findings could help the in the search for dark matter and open a new chapter in the understanding of the universe.
The Virgo research involves scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany, the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, the University of Victoria in Canada, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
Volker Springel of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics led the computer simulations which took 3.5 million processor hours to complete.
"This calculation has redefined the state of the art in cosmological simulations," said Springel. "At times I thought it would never end."
The study is reported in the journal Nature.