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New dark matter map reveals cosmic mystery

Science desk || shiningbd

Published: 19:56, 30 May 2021  
New dark matter map reveals cosmic mystery

This is the most detailed map of of the distribution of dark matter in the Universe. The bright areas represent its highest concentrations

An international team of researchers has created the largest and most detailed map of the distribution of so-called dark matter in the Universe.

The results are a surprise because they show that it is slightly smoother and more spread out than the current best theories predict.

The observation appears to stray from Einstein's theory of general relativity - posing a conundrum for researchers.

The results have been published by the Dark Energy Survey Collaboration.

Dark Matter is an invisible substance that permeates space. It accounts for 80% of the matter in the Universe.

Astronomers were able to work out where it was because it distorts light from distant stars. The greater the distortion, the greater the concentration of dark matter.

Dr Niall Jeffrey, of École Normale Supérieure, in Paris, who pieced the map together, said that the result posed a "real problem" for physics.

"If this disparity is true then maybe Einstein was wrong," he told BBC News. "You might think that this is a bad thing, that maybe physics is broken. But to a physicist, it is extremely exciting. It means that we can find out something new about the way the Universe really is."

Prof Carlos Frenk, of Durham University, who was one of the scientists that built on the work of Albert Einstein and others to develop the current cosmological theory, said he had mixed emotions on hearing the news.

"I spent my life working on this theory and my heart tells me I don't want to see it collapse. But my brain tells me that the measurements were correct, and we have to look at the possibility of new physics," said Prof Frenk.

"Then my stomach cringes, because we have no solid grounds to explore because we have no theory of physics to guide us. It makes me very nervous and fearful, because we are entering a completely unknown domain and who knows what we are going to find."

 

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