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Researchers at the NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile have created the largest-ever maps of dark matter filaments, covering almost one-eighth of the night sky and including over 200 million galaxies. Using weak gravitational lensing, they were able to map out the distribution of dark matter in never-before-seen detail, revealing hundreds of mysterious objects that challenge conventional cosmological models, including aspects of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Researchers at NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile have created the largest-ever maps of dark matter filaments, which cover almost one-eighth of the night sky and include over 200 million galaxies.

The discoveries were published in a mega-batch of 30 articles by the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration, an international team of hundreds of scientists. These maps have implications for our understanding of cosmic objects, as they have revealed hundreds of mysterious objects that may challenge conventional cosmological models, including some aspects of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The maps chart the distribution of dark matter, an unidentified material that makes up more than a quarter of the universe, in never-before-seen detail. The researchers were able to create these maps using a method of cosmic cartography known as weak gravitational lensing, which involves observing large objects in space that distort the light emitted by galaxies or other radiant phenomena situated behind them from our perspective on Earth.

This lensing effect provides a means to map out the distribution of dark matter on huge scales, which would be otherwise challenging given that this unidentified material does not produce detectable light.