Featured Image: Mapping Matter in the Universe

This image may look like a work of modern art, but it’s actually a map of the matter in our universe. A team led by Mathew Madhavacheril (University of Pennsylvania and Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics) developed this map from new measurements of the cosmic microwave background — the oldest light in the universe, which was emitted not long after the Big Bang. As this ancient light wends its way to us, it curves around the gravitational wells of intervening galaxies and galaxy clusters. By measuring the degree to which the microwave background is warped, researchers can determine how matter is scattered throughout the universe. The image above shows regions with lots of matter in white and regions without much matter in black. The orange and blue contours show the locations of dusty galaxies, which appear to be correlated with the location of matter measured from the microwave background. Researchers can test cosmological models with this new dataset, which covers nearly a quarter of the sky — the image here shows just a tiny fraction of the available data. To learn more about how researchers map matter and study structures in our universe, be sure to check out the original research article linked below.


“The Atacama Cosmology Telescope: DR6 Gravitational Lensing Map and Cosmological Parameters,” Mathew S. Madhavacheril et al 2024 ApJ 962 113. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/acff5f