Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

It’s dark mat­ter as we’ve never seen it be­fore: a team from Yale Univer­sity has put to­gether one of the high­est res­o­lu­tion maps of the elu­sive par­ti­cles by us­ing im­ages from the Hub­ble Space Tele­scope to study three clus­ters of gal­ax­ies.

Dark mat­ter is a the­o­rised sub­stance that doesn’t re­flect or ab­sorb light and is thought to com­prise 80 per cent of the mat­ter in the Uni­verse. It can only be de­tected in­di­rectly through its grav­i­ta­tional ef­fects.

Dark mat­ter par­ti­cles are thought to pro­vide the un­seen mass that is re­spon­si­ble for a phe­nom­e­non known as grav­i­ta­tional lens­ing, by bend­ing light orig­i­nat­ing from dis­tant gal­ax­ies. This light bend­ing pro­duces dis­tor­tions in the shapes of gal­ax­ies viewed through the ‘lens’. The team de­coded these dis­tor­tions to cre­ate the map of dark mat­ter.

“With the data of these three lens­ing clus­ters we have suc­cess­fully mapped the gran­u­lar­ity of dark mat­ter within the clus­ters in ex­quis­ite de­tail,” said re­searcher Prof Priyam­vada Natara­jan. “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.”

They found that the map closely matches com­puter sim­u­la­tions of dark mat­ter the­o­ret­i­cally pre­dicted by the cold dark mat­ter model – dark mat­ter that moves slowly com­pared to the speed of light.

This 3D vi­su­al­i­sa­tion shows dark mat­ter dis­tri­bu­tions in one galaxy clus­ter

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