Dark Matter Map Unveils Cosmic Mystery

Data from Hubble telescope reaches back billions of years
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2012 5:00 PM CST
Dark Matter Map Unveils Cosmic Mystery
A 3D map of dark matter, reconstructed from information collected by the Hubble Space Telescope.   (Wikipedia)

Invisible matter may be holding us all together after all. Researchers have unveiled the biggest-ever map of dark matter in the universe, which shows large clumps and wispy filaments of the stuff nestling galaxies like jewels, the BBC and Space.com report. "We've seen the first glimpse of the cosmic web which acts as the basic framework for large scale structures," says one researcher.

With data gathered by the Hubble telescope, the map looks back to when the universe was 6.5 billion years old—about half its current age. Inferring the presence of dark matter through visual distortions in the shapes of galaxies, the map shows how matter was once evenly distributed until it clumped together into galaxies. What's the big deal? The map is the best-ever evidence that dark matter takes up roughly five-sixths of the universe, keeping fast-spinning galaxies from breaking apart. (See how the secret to dark matter may lie underground.)

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