Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 August 14
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Dark Matter Map
Credit: J.-P. Kneib (Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees, Caltech) et al., ESA, NASA

Explanation: The total mass within giant galaxy cluster CL0025+1654, about 4.5 billion light-years away, produces a cosmic gravitational lens -- bending light as predicted by Einstein's theory of gravity and forming detectable images of even more distant background galaxies. Of course, the total cluster mass is the sum of the galaxies themselves, seen as ordinary luminous matter, plus the cluster's invisible dark matter whose nature remains unknown. But by analyzing the distribution of luminous matter and the properties of the gravitational lensing due to total cluster mass, researchers have solved the problem of tracing the dark matter layout. Their resulting map shows the otherwise invisible dark matter in blue, and the positions of the cluster galaxies in yellow. The work, based on extensive Hubble Space Telescope observations, reveals that the cluster's dark matter is not evenly distributed, but follows the clumps of luminous matter closely.

Tomorrow's picture: sedimentary Mars

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Web Site Statements, Warnings, and Disclaimers
NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.