A new map of dark matter in the local universe reveals several previously undiscovered filamentary structures connecting galaxies. The map, developed using machine learning, could enable studies about the nature of dark matter as well as about the history and future of our local universe.
Dark matter is an elusive substance that makes up 80% of the universe. It also provides the skeleton for what cosmologists call the cosmic web, the large-scale structure of the universe that, due to its gravitational influence, dictates the motion of galaxies and other cosmic material. However, the distribution of local dark matter is currently unknown because it cannot be measured directly. Researchers must instead infer its distribution based on its gravitational influence on other objects in the universe, like galaxies.
“Ironically, it’s easier to study the distribution of dark matter much further away because it reflects the very distant past, which is much less complex,” said Donghui Jeong, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and a corresponding author of the study. “Over time, as the large-scale structure of the universe has grown, the complexity of the universe has increased, so it is inherently harder to make measurements about dark matter locally.”