Pools of Invisible Matter
Super Clusters Credit: Hubble NASA, ESA, C. Heymans (University of British Columbia), M. Gray (University of Nottingham), and the STAGES Collaboration
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is helping astronomers to dissect one of the largest structures in the universe, in a quest to understand the violent lives of galaxies, and providing indirect evidence of unseen dark matter tugging on galaxies in the crowded, rough-and-tumble environment of a massive supercluster of hundreds of galaxies.
The images are part of the Space Telescope Abell 901/902 Galaxy Evolution Survey (STAGES), which covers one of the largest patches of sky ever observed by the Hubble telescope.
The area surveyed is so wide that it took 80 Hubble images to cover the entire STAGES field. The new work is led by Meghan Gray of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and Catherine Heymans of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, along with an international team of scientists.
The Hubble study pinpointed four main areas in the supercluster where dark matter has pooled into dense clumps, totaling 100 trillion times the Sun's mass. These areas match the location of hundreds of old galaxies that have experienced a violent history in their passage from the outskirts of the supercluster into these dense regions. These galaxies make up four separate galaxy clusters.
The dark matter map was constructed by measuring the distorted shapes of over 60,000 faraway galaxies.
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