Dark matter mapped to greatest degree ever

Jan. 9, 2012 at 8:52 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Scientists have mapped dark matter in the universe on the largest scale ever observed, a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, heard.

The results reveal a universe comprised of an intricate cosmic web of dark matter and galaxies spanning more than 1 billion light years, astronomers from Scotland and Canada said.

A team of researchers led by Catherine Heymans of the University of Edinburgh and Ludovic Van Waerbeke of the University of British Columbia achieved their results by analyzing images of about 10 million galaxies in four different regions of the sky.

They studied the images for distortion of the light emitted from these galaxies, which is bent as it passes massive clumps of dark matter on its way to Earth, an Edinburgh release said Monday.

Most of the galaxies included in the survey are around 6 billion light years away, meaning the light in the images in the study was emitted when the universe was 6 billion years old, about half its present age.

Computer simulations have long suggested a universe full of dark matter but that was difficult to verify, owing to the invisible nature of dark matter, researchers said.

"It is fascinating to be able to 'see' the dark matter using space-time distortion." Van Waerbeke said "It gives us privileged access to this mysterious mass in the Universe which cannot be observed otherwise."

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