Using the powerful trick of gravitational lensing, a European and American team of astronomers have constructed an extensive ‘mass map’ of one of the most massive structures in our Universe. They believe that it will lead to a better understanding of how such systems assembled and the key role of dark matter.
Clusters of galaxies are the largest stable systems in the Universe. They are like laboratories for studying the relationship between the distributions of dark and visible matter. In 1937, Fritz Zwicky realised that the visible component of a cluster (the thousands of millions of stars in each of the thousands of galaxies) represents only a tiny fraction of the total mass. About 80-85% of the matter is invisible, the so-called ’’dark matter’’. Although astronomers have known about the presence of dark matter for many decades, finding a technique to view its distribution is a much more recent development.
Led by Drs Jean-Paul Kneib (from the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, France/Caltech, United States), Richard Ellis and Tommaso Treu (both Caltech, United States), the team used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to reconstruct a unique ‘mass map’ of the galaxy cluster CL0024+1654. It enabled them to see for the first time on such large scales how mysterious dark matter is distributed with respect to galaxies. This comparison gives new clues on how such large clusters assemble and which role dark matter plays in cosmic evolution.
Monica Talevi | alfa
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