Dark matter scaffolding of universe detected for the first time

A filament of dark matter has been directly detected between the galaxy clusters Abell 222 and Abell 223. The blue shading and yellow contour lines represent the density of matter.
Image credit: Jörg Dietrich, U-M Department of Physics

ANN ARBOR, Mich.— Scientists have, for the first time, directly detected part of the invisible dark matter skeleton of the universe, where more than half of all matter is believed to reside.

The discovery, led by a University of Michigan physics researcher, confirms a key prediction in the prevailing theory of how the universe’s current web-like structure evolved.

The map of the known universe shows that most galaxies are organized into clusters, but some galaxies are situated along filaments that connect the clusters. Cosmologists have theorized that dark matter undergirds those filaments, which serve as highways of sorts, guiding galaxies toward the gravitational pull of the massive clusters. Dark matter’s contribution had been predicted with computer simulations, and its shape had been roughed out based on the distribution of the galaxies. But no one had directly detected it until now.

“We found the dark matter filaments. For the first time, we can see them,” said Jörg Dietrich, a physics research fellow in the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Dietrich is first author of a paper on the findings published online in Nature and to appear in the July 12 print edition.

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