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Astrophysicists Create The Most Comprehensive Map Of The Universe Yet

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Caroline Reid

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1724 Astrophysicists Create The Most Comprehensive Map Of The Universe Yet
Map of galaxy distribution of universe with density field smoothed with a Gaussian window of 4 Mpc/h — The University of Waterloo

Astrophysicists have collated an impressive amount of data on galaxies as far away as 2 billion light-years from Earth and created a world first: the most complete map of the cosmos yet! The map is spherical and three-dimensional, and also shows the location and mass distribution of galaxies. 

It takes cosmological maps to the next level by tracking the motion of the galaxies through the heavens. Previous models of the universe don’t take motion into account. It is these extra details that will help astrophysicists further their research into some of the secrets of space. The work has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


This map should also give scientists a helping hand when trying to puzzle out how much dark matter is in the universe and how it is distributed. From the size, velocity and distribution of the visible galaxies, they can infer the locations that dark matter exists and explain the placement of galaxies.



Video of the 3D map of the universe via the University of Waterloo. Watch more videos here.


The map is color coded as follows: light blue indicates the presence of galaxies, light blue to white represents a greater concentration of galaxies, and the red areas indicate superclusters of galaxies. Unexplored regions appear in medium blue.

There are some interesting things to look out for when watching the video that reveal some exciting properties about the early universe. "The galaxy distribution isn't uniform and has no pattern," said Mike Hudson, associate dean of science, computing at Waterloo. "It has peaks and valleys much like a mountain range. This is what we expect if the large-scale structure originates from quantum fluctuations in the early universe."

This map should help astrophysicists shed some light on one of the universe’s darkest mysteries: dark matter and its distribution.

Dark matter is a mysterious substance that is theorized to exist in enormous quantities throughout the universe. In fact, it is theorized to make up the majority of the mass in the universe. It neither reflects or emits light so it cannot be seen or directly measured, however it does act gravitationally. It is proposed that dark matter gravitationally attracts and effects visible matter (like stars and galaxies) and even has an effect on the path of visible light.


The next step for this map will be its enhancement. Where there are peculiar velocities and unusual motion, scientists will look to the skies and take detailed samples of the regions that seem to be of interest. 

Top Image Credit: The University of Waterloo


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