Dark matter can’t be seen, but a new map shows where it’s hiding. Released April 13, the map confirms that the mysterious matter is concentrated in regions that contain a lot of ordinary matter in the form of galaxy clusters.
Scientists with the Dark Energy Survey created the map by scanning a large swath of sky with a 570-megapixel camera hooked up to a 4-meter telescope in Chile. Although dark matter doesn’t absorb, emit or scatter light, the researchers inferred its distribution by charting how its gravitational influence altered the paths of light zooming past. The map enables scientists to study dark matter’s role in influencing whether particular areas of the early cosmos lit up with stars and galaxies or remained relatively empty.
The project’s ultimate goal is to use five years’ worth of sky scans to probe dark energy — a mysterious entity separate from the dark matter that is causing the universe to expand faster and faster.