During this annual April Meeting of the American Physical Society, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration presented an awesome preview on the upcoming series of maps of dark matter.
The Baltimore-based meeting was home to some very interesting insight on the matter that supposedly makes up a lot of the objects and the energy we have found in the Universe so far. The maps were drawn on the data provided by the Dark Energy Camera, the main tool of the DES.
The equipment was set on a high mountaintop, attached to a telescope located at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The high disposition was established so the images will be of the best resolution and the interference is kept to a minimum.
Data collection with the DES started back in 2013 with the purpose of gaining further understanding of the crucial role dark matter seems to have in the creation of galaxies. After two years, the instrument has finally generated a fascinating map with the first fine details on the distribution of dark matter across a large wrap of sky.
But things are about to get more exciting, as this area amounts to barely 3 percent of the sky the DES will cover by the end of its run – scheduled to last five years. There have been previous attempts of generating dark matter maps, but none so large and with such a high resolution.
Gravitational lensing: efficient tool in cosmic maping
After the data collection, Vinu Vikram and Chihway Chang put together a team of scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, and they undergone a very thorough analysis. Thanks to gravitational lensing, the map presents the very subtle distortions occurring in the shapes of two million galaxies.
According to the gravitational lensing technique, the light around the galaxies is being bent due to the invisible gravitational effects of the dark matter, creating predictable patterns. So far, all the results contained in the map are backing up current hypothesis – we already estimated dark matter was in a significantly larger mass than visible matter (only 4 percent) in the Universe.
In a press release, Chang explained how incredible concentrations of dark matter usually translate in galaxy formations and stronger gravity – creating a fragile dance between light and mass.
By thoroughly studying the map, researchers discovered that dark matter covers different types of galaxies and together evolve through space and time. This is the breakthrough that theoretical models were expecting; better data means much stricter tests with more accurate analyses.
Over time, DES will have more and more data to work with, therefore, the dark matter maps will also become more accurate and will provide a better outlook. But what DES is ultimately set on discovering is more information on the accelerating universe, particularly on the elusive nature of dark energy.
Physicists believe dark energy is the momentum of acceleration, as it has a rather important role: it created no less than 73 percent of the “things” this Universe is made of. In fact, it is such an important mystery, that it made the top physics questions of the 21st century that await answer.
Supernovae and sound waves
Gravitational lensing isn’t the only technique that helps scientists during this on-going survey. Other tools, such as studying data on supernovae, will be employed by DES researchers, as they are already used in the estimation of distances in the cosmos.
There is also a more recent study on the uniformity of Type 1a supernovae, published in the Astrophysical Journal. If they are as even as astronomers suggest, then the Universe might expend a lot slower than previously assumed.
Back to our research, the Dark Energy Camera will also keep track of all the galaxy clusters it detects and then observe the changes that take place over time. This process is essential for a better understanding of how gravity and dark energy (anti-gravity at its core) react to each other.
And lastly, the Universe’ expansion will be translated into maps by also studying and monitoring the oscillations of sound waves. The galaxy distribution was deeply affected by the creation of baryonic oscillations a long time after the big bang.
This imprint should become more visible into patterns, once the number of galaxies that have been tracked surpasses 300 million, and physicists hope this will help them in their endeavor of making presumptions about the cosmos’ history and how it has been expanding.
In other news, the Dark Energy Camera was just awarded the winner of the Symmetry’s Physics Madness contest, defeating the Large Hadron Collider in the race for favorite big physics machine. After generating such an intense map and with the promise of handing us some even better ones, we can say that award was well deserved.
Image Source: Geek
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