First ever 3D images of the huge sized dark matter in the universe; Research

Hubble image of MACS J0717 with dark matter mass overlay (Credit: NASA, ESA, Harald Ebeling (University of Hawaii at Manoa) & Jean-Paul Kneib (LAM))

Astronomers have successfully developed 3D images of a gigantic dark matter filament in the universe for the first time.

The research for the 3D reconstructions in three articles has been accepted for publication in the online issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Dark matter is the undetected mass in the universe comprising a substantial part of it. It cannot be seen but scientists observe its presence by the gravitational effects, it poses on the space around it. Big Bang theory supports that after the creation of the universe, dense matter condensed into a web of tangled dark matter filaments throughout the universe.

The geometry of MACS J0717 (Credit: NASA, ESA, Harald Ebeling (University of Hawaii), Karen Teramura (University of Hawaii))

Scientists in this study compare and bring together the images from the Hubble Space telescope, Japan’s Subaru Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope along with spectroscopic data from WM Keck and Gemini Observatories, simulated the mapping of the condensation of the dark matter and develop a raw picture of dark matter (shown in blue above) that is extending 60 million light-years away from one of the huge galaxy clusters – MACS J0717. However, it is not easy to check these filaments in space.

18 separate Hubble images combined to give a huge image of massive galaxy cluster MACS J0717.5+3745 (Credit: NASA, ESA, Harald Ebeling (University of Hawaii at Manoa) & Jean-Paul Kneib (LAM))

“Filaments of the cosmic web are hugely extended and very diffuse, which makes them extremely difficult to detect, let alone study in 3D,” said one of the study’s lead author, Mathilde Jauzac of LAM in France and University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Scientists chose cluster because according to the theories of cosmic evolution, these are the places where filaments of the cosmic web should meet. They also devised new ways to convert image distortions into a mass map.

Li-Yen Hsu, IfA graduate student and lead author of one of the three studies, said “Our understanding of the shape and motion of the cluster kept evolving as we added more and more observational evidence. It’s a little like solving a jigsaw puzzle with half of the pieces missing.”

NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope would help a lot in studying the filaments in the cosmic web after its scheduled launch in 2018.

Reference papers:

Mathilde Jauzac, Eric Jullo, Jean-Paul Kneib, Harald Ebeling, Alexie Leauthaud, Cheng-Jiun Ma, Marceau Limousin, Richard Massey, Johan Richard, (2012). A Weak-Lensing Mass Reconstruction of the Large-Scale Filament Feeding the Massive Galaxy Cluster MACSJ0717.5+3745.  Accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

I-Ting Ho, Harald Ebeling, Johan Richard, (2012). An X-ray/optical study of the geometry and dynamics of MACS J0140.0-0555, a massive post-collision cluster merger. Accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Li-Yen Hsu, Harald Ebeling, Johan Richard, (2012). The three-dimensional geometry and merger history of the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0358.8-2955. Accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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