Dark matter makes up about 25% of the universe, and yet we can’t see it. It doesn’t reflect or absorb light, and therefore has avoided visual observation ever since it was first hypothesized way back in the early 1900s.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo, however, may have just changed that.
According to a press release by the Royal Astronomical Society, they’ve captured a “composite image of a dark matter bridge that connects galaxies together.” Something, they say, that’s like a “cosmic web.”
To create the composite image, the researchers, including Mike Hudson and master’s student Seth Epps, took advantage of weak gravitational lensing. This is the gravitational bending effect on distant light by large, invisible masses — planets, black holes or, possibly, dark matter.
They also got a little help from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.
A composite image, simply put, is a number of separate images combined together. In this case, the images were “from more than 23,000 galaxy pairs located 4.5 billion light-years away.”
“By using this technique, we’re not only able to see that these dark matter filaments in the universe exist, we’re able to see the extent to which these filaments connect galaxies together,” said Epps.
This potential breakthrough will have to be replicated and more research will have to be done. It’s always possible this isn’t dark matter. But if it is, it’ll be a great step toward understanding more about our universe.
Oh, and to add a weird little twist here, some researchers have suggested that the existence of dark matter may indicate that there’s an entire “shadow galaxy” below our own (in a manner of speaking). Once we uncover the true nature of dark matter and dark energy, where will that lead us, I wonder? What else will we find?