Scientists Observe The Mysterious Hidden Structure Of The Universe For The First Time

In 1933, Fritz Zwicky — a Swiss astronomer working at CalTech — had an amazing revelation. He realised that the amount of matter that we can see through our telescopes doesn't match the behaviour of the Universe. There had to be something else that we couldn't see. Something that accounts for an astonishing 83 percent of all existing matter but is invisible to us.

Or it was. Now, for the first time in history, a team of astronomers has observed these hidden tendrils that extend everywhere. Dark matter, the mysterious substance that appears to give the universe its structure, has finally been revealed.

The results of the study were published in Nature last Wednesday, going mostly unnoticed because of the announcement of the Higgs boson.

The research, lead by Jörg Dietrich, an astronomer at the University of Munich Observatory in Germany, observed the large-scale structure filaments intersections in which galaxy clusters occur:

[This marks] the first time we have observationally verified this very important theoretical prediction.

These dark tendrils have been impossible to observe until now because they are not dense enough. But Dietrich and his colleagues have been able to locate a filament that could be observed, a gigantic dark matter tendril that is 18 mega-parsecs long. It connects Abell 222 and Abell 223, two galaxy clusters located 2.7 billion light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Cetus.

The team was able to observe the dark matter not only because of the vast size of the filament, but because of its orientation: it is perpendicular to Earth, along our line of view. That made it more dense from our perspective, increasing the gravitational lensing that deforms the light of objects behind it. By observing this optical distortion over 40,000 background galaxies, they know that the mass in the filament is between 6.5 × 10^13 and 9.8 × 10^13 times the mass of the Sun.

They used data from the XMM-Newton spacecraft, processed with a new computer analysis technique that revealed the precise shape of the filament, thus showing the dark matter and confirming the theoretical model proposed by Zwicky at the beginning of the 20th century.

Until know, there has never been direct observation of this substance. You could have seen the effect in the 3D map of the universe below, which shows how galaxies are clumped along an apparently branched structure. However, this was just an indication of the existence of something invisible with enough gravitational power to make those shapes.

Both astronomers and physicists are very excited about this discovery. Astrophysicist Mark Bautz, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, thinks that "what's exciting is that in this unusual system we can map both dark matter and visible matter together and try to figure out how they connect and evolve along the filament." Alexandre Refregier, a cosmologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, thinks that this observation will complement the work to find dark matter on Earth at laboratories like the Large Hadron Collider or Fermilab.

Slowly, every day, we are uncovering the secrets of the Universe one by one. And we'll continue to, until the Universe gets tired of us and sends us an giant asteroid to get rid of those pesky humans. [Nature and Nature via Boston Herald, Christian Science Monitor and NASA]


Comments

    Seems to me that our universe is wrapped around another one, or at least a dimension that has a lot of mass. I often wonder where all the matter disappears to, down all those black holes and apparently there's an awful lot of them. What if it's dropping into the same place dark matter exists and we're wrapped around it, Just like a glove.! Meh.!.. just a thought.. :)

      Its not "going" anywhere, it is being absorbed into the black hole, where it is crushed to almost infinitesimal size/volume. As it absorbs more stuff, the mass of the black hole increases, which is why we can see the big ones (gravitational lensing, as mentioned in the article).

        Mate you seem to have an opinion on everything, every subject and you come across like you think you know it all. Fact is, you don't!
        I'm not saying I'm an expert either and my comment is mere speculation, I don't need your expert opinion on everything... OK.. thanks :)

          Though he is correct about matter being crushed in a black hole. To expand for a moment on what MotorMouth has said; as the black hole absorbs more matter and crushes it, the core of the black hole becomes denser and denser, and thus expanding it's gravitational force to suck even more in until it reaches the end of its lifespan.

          Though this is just what I've gathered from documents, teachers, articles and the like, and I might not have stated it all correctly.

          I must say though, I don't see anything wrong with what MotorMouth is doing or saying? He's passing on information, which seems to be true and can easily be checked by a quick google search. So rather, you should be thankful? Then again... I don't understand everything or everyone, and I'm really not sure how you think.

            Yeah I know the basics of how Black holes work. I also know that greater minds than mine have postulated that they may indeed eject or explode into another or even a new universe. Postulation is part of how they learn about those possibilities, and my OP was just that, as I mentioned at the end. Motormouth is essentially telling me how to suck eggs as he does with a lot of his posts, to a lot of people..

              I know what you mean... he's sprouting out old info as that!

                *old info at that (I meant). Just the typical mainstream rhetoric though

              +1 He can be very annoying at times :)

              MegaMouth

    Awsome, but when i saw tendrils in space i thought Tyranid hive fleet

    "18 mega-parsecs long" Um, isn't a parsec a unit of time?

      No... :)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsec

    Third last paragraph, "Until know" should be "Until now"
    #corrections

      Yes, because your Grammar Nazi attitude really adds to the comments.. not!

        Your first name is spelt incorrectly. Jordan has one "a".

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