Washington, Feb 22 : An international team of astronomers from France and Canada has managed to detect for the first time dark matter structures up to 270 million light years in size, which extend to more than 2000 times the size of our Milky Way. o glimpse the unseen structures, the astronomers "X-rayed" the dark matter, an invisible web that makes up more than 80 per cent of the mass of the universe.
The team used a recently developed technique called "weak gravitational lensing," which is similar to taking an X-ray of the body to reveal the underlying skeleton.
The study relied on data gathered from the world's largest digital camera.
"The results are a major leap forward since the presence of a cosmic dark matter web that extends over such large distances has never been observed before," said Ludovic Van Waerbeke, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Astronomers have known for some time that the Universe is full of mysterious dark matter. This invisible matter forms giant structures of filaments, sheets and clusters. How exactly this dark "cosmic web" is distributed throughout the Universe has long eluded scientists.
Now, the team of Canadian and French astronomers have observed how light from distant galaxies is bent and distorted by webs of dark matter as it travels toward Earth.
They then mapped dark matter structures by measuring the distortions seen in these galaxy light patterns and determined that they extend up to 270 million light years.
The distribution of dark matter inside filaments extending up to 270 million light-years in size provides unprecedented information on the cosmic history of structure formation, properties of the dark Universe and the cosmological parameters that characterize the Universe.
"This new knowledge is crucial for us to understand the history and evolution of the cosmos," said Van Waerbeke. "Such a tool will also enable us to glimpse a little more of the nature of dark matter," he added.