Dark matter mapped in record detail by Yale astronomers

"While we now have a precise cosmic inventory for the amount of dark matter and how it is distributed in the universe, the particle itself remains elusive," researcher Priyamvada Natarajan said.
By Brooks Hays   |   March 1, 2017 at 4:37 PM

March 1 (UPI) -- A new map created by Yale researchers showcases the distribution of dark matter in unprecedented detail. Astronomers created the map using Hubble Space Telescope Frontier Fields observations of a trio of gravitational lensing clusters.

"With the data of these three lensing clusters we have successfully mapped the granularity of dark matter within the clusters in exquisite detail," astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan said in a news release. "We have mapped all of the clumps of dark matter that the data permit us to detect, and have produced the most detailed topological map of the dark matter landscape to date."

Researchers published their new map in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Scientists believe dark matter may hold many of the secrets of the universe, such as how the universe was born and how galaxies evolve. Unfortunately, dark matter particles don't reflect or absorb light and have yet to be directly observed by scientists.

"While we now have a precise cosmic inventory for the amount of dark matter and how it is distributed in the universe, the particle itself remains elusive," Natarajan said.

The gravitational pull of dark matter is believed to play a significant role in gravitational lensing, the bending of distant light around intermediary galaxies and galactic clusters. Astronomers analyzed patterns in the light warped by the lensing clusters to map the granular distribution of dark matter in each group of galaxies.

Their dark matter cluster map is largely in agreement with dark matter distribution maps created by predictive computer models.

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