A team of researchers said Tuesday that it has created a more comprehensive map showing the universe’s dark matter distribution by using a camera on Japan’s Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.

The map covers a wider area and features a higher resolution than any other similar maps, said the team, which includes researchers from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the University of Tokyo.

Dark matter is the mysterious invisible substance that is thought to make up about a quarter of the universe’s mass.

Deeper understanding of dark matter distribution would help check the validity of the theory that the expansion of the universe is speeding up. Studying dark matter would also help better understand how galaxies and galaxy clusters have been formed.

The camera, called Hyper Suprime-Cam, entered into full service in 2013. In one shot, it can capture an area in the sky equivalent to the combined size of nine full moons.

Using the equipment, the team started a six-year project in February 2014 to observe light bent by the gravitational pull of dark matter — the gravitational lens effect.

The team’s new map covers an area about 80 times that of the previous map and shows dark matter cluster numbers are smaller than was theoretically predicted.

This could indicate that the past expansion of the universe may have been faster than current theoretical estimates, the team said, also adding that more data is needed to confirm such a possibility.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.