First 3D universe map made 2007-01-08 08:26:28

    BEIJING, Jan. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Astronomers have created the first three-dimensional map of the large-scale  distribution of dark matter in the universe, according to the journal Nature on Monday.     

Hubble Space Telescope

Hubble Space Telescope (File Photo)
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    A team led by the British scientist Richard Massey, of the California Institute of Technology, has used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, mapping its presence by the way it bends light coming from stars that lie behind.

    This new map provides the best evidence to date 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 that grew over time and intersected in massive structures at the locations of clusters of galaxies.

    The map stretches halfway back to the beginning of the universe and shows how dark matter has grown increasingly "clumpy" as it collapses under gravity.

    For astronomers, the challenge of mapping dark matter in the universe has been similar to mapping a city from nighttime aerial snapshots showing only streetlights. Dark matter is invisible, so only the luminous galaxies can be seen directly. These new map images are equivalent to seeing a city, its suburbs and country roads in daylight for the first time. Major arteries and intersections become evident, and a variety of neighborhoods are visible.

    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 dark matter may eventually also shed light on dark energy, a repulsive form of gravity that would have influenced how dark matter clumps.

    The research results is consistent with predictions that a hidden scaffold of dark matter orchestrates the distribution of visible, bright matter such as galaxies and stars.


Editor: Chen Feng
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