An international team of scientists has assembled the first three-dimensional map that offers a look at the web-like large-scale distribution of dark matter in the Universe by analysing the Hubble COSMOS survey (the largest ever survey undertaken with Hubble).
This new map is equivalent to seeing a city, its suburbs and surrounding country roads in daylight for the first time. Major arteries and intersections are revealed and the variety of different neighbourhoods becomes evident.
The map provides the best evidence yet that normal matter, largely in the form of galaxies, accumulates along the densest concentrations of dark matter. The map reveals a loose network of filaments, intersecting in massive structures where clusters of galaxies are located.
The map, which stretches halfway back in time to the beginning of the Universe, also reveals how dark matter has recently grown increasingly clumpy as it continues to collapse under gravity.
Mapping dark matter’s distribution in space and time is fundamental to understanding how galaxies grew and clustered over billions of years. Tracing the growth of clustering in the dark matter may also eventually shed light on dark energy, a force which repels matter rather than attracts it as gravity does, which may have influenced how dark matter clumps.
The map is consistent with conventional theories of how structure formed in the evolving Universe under the relentless pull of gravity, making the transition from a smooth distribution of matter into a sponge-like structure of long filaments.
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