WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Dark matter makes up 25% of the known, and unknown, universe but very little is known about it, however bit by bit it’s giving up it’s mysteries.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo have captured the first composite image of a dark matter “bridge” that connects two distant galaxies together, and they’ve published their work in a new paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The composite image, which combines a number of individual images, confirms predictions that galaxies across the universe are tied together through a cosmic web connected by dark matter that has until now remained unobservable.
Dark matter, a mysterious substance that comprises around 25 per cent of the universe, doesn’t shine, absorb or reflect light, which has traditionally made it largely undetectable, that said though, earlier this year a team of researchers from Yale University managed to use gravity to map the world’s first dark matter map, and last year another team of researchers used a supercomputer to try to conclude what particles it’s made from.
“For decades, researchers have been predicting the existence of dark matter filaments between galaxies that act like a web like superstructure connecting galaxies together,” said Mike Hudson, a professor of astronomy at the University of Waterloo, “this image moves us beyond predictions to something we can see and measure.”
As part of their research, Hudson and co-author Seth Epps, a master’s student at the University of Waterloo at the time, used a technique called weak gravitational lensing, an effect that causes the images of distant galaxies to warp slightly under the influence of an unseen mass such as a planet, a black hole, or in this case, dark matter. The effect was measured in images from a multi-year sky survey at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.
They combined lensing images from more than 23,000 galaxy pairs located 4.5 billion light-years away to create a composite image or map that shows the presence of dark matter between the two galaxies. Results show the dark matter filament bridge is strongest between systems 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,” said Epps.