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Hubble and Chandra observations have indeed confirmed that this is the case. In astronomers used Hubble's sensitivty to study intracluster light in the hunt for dark matter.

Origins : How the Planets, Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe Began

Intracluster light is a byproduct of interactions between galaxies. In the course of these interactions, individual stars are stripped from their galaxies and float freely within the cluster. Once free from their galaxies, they end up where the majority of the mass of the cluster, mostly dark matter, resides. Both the dark matter and these isolated stars — which form the intracluster light — act as collisionless components.

These follow the gravitational potential of the cluster itself. The study showed that the intracluster light is aligned with the dark matter, tracing its distribution more accurately than any other method relying on luminous tracers used so far. In an international team of astronomers used Hubble to create the first three-dimensional map of the large-scale distribution of dark matter in the Universe.


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It was constructed by measuring the shapes of half a million galaxies observed by Hubble. The light of these galaxies traveled — until it reached Hubble — down a path interrupted by clumps of dark matter which deformed the appearance of the galaxies. Astronomers used the observed distortion of the galaxies shapes to reconstruct their original shape and could therefore also calculate the distribution of dark matter in between.

Astronomy: The Science of the Cosmos

This map showed that normal matter, largely in the form of galaxies, accumulates along the densest concentrations of dark matter. The created map stretches halfway back to the beginning of the Universe and shows how dark matter grew increasingly clumpy as it collapsed under gravity. Mapping dark matter distribution down to even smaller scales is fundamental for our understanding of how galaxies grew and clustered over billions of years. Tracing the growth of clustering in dark matter may eventually also shed light on dark energy.

More intriguing still than dark matter is dark energy. Hubble studies of the expansion rate of the Universe have found that the expansion is actually speeding up. Astronomers have explained this using the theory of dark energy, that pushes the Universe apart ever faster, against the pull of gravity.


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While astronomers have been able to take steps along the path to understanding how dark energy works and what it does, its true nature is still a mystery. The page on " measuring the age and size of the Universe " also has information on dark energy and how it relates to the expansion of the cosmos. Open Menu. The composition of the Universe The chemical composition of the Universe and the physical nature of its constituent matter are topics that have occupied scientists for centuries.

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Quasar lighthouses The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph is designed to study the composition and large-scale structure of the Universe This investigation of helium in the early Universe is one of many ways that Hubble has used distant quasars as lighthouses. General readers; lower-division undergraduates. It makes the reader familiar with new types of telescopes and observations. JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser.

How the Planets, Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe Began

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Astronomy The Basics of Learning Astronomy

About this book The biggest questions in astronomy are those of how the planets, stars, galaxies, and the Universe were formed. Show all. Table of contents 9 chapters Table of contents 9 chapters Rocks Pages ET and the Exoplanets Pages Connections Pages The Final Frontier Pages