Einstein was right about invisible dark matter, massive new map of the universe suggests

The universe's dark matter bent light created only 380,000 years after the Big Bang in the manner Einstein foresaw.

Using the very first light from the cosmos, astronomers have created the most accurate map ever of enigmatic dark matter, and the "groundbreaking" image may yet again demonstrate Einstein's correctness.

The new image depicts the huge matter tendrils that emerged just after the cosmos blasted into existence. It was created using light that is 14 billion years old from the chaotic Big Bang's aftermath. It turns out that these tendrils' forms astonishingly match those that Einstein's general theory of relativity anticipated.

The latest finding goes against earlier dark matter maps that suggested the cosmic web, the vast system of interconnecting celestial superhighways filled with hydrogen gas and dark matter that spans the cosmos, is less clumpy than Einstein's theory anticipated. The scientists presented their findings April 11 at the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Japan's Future Science with CMB x LSS conference.

According to a statement issued by University of Pennsylvania cosmologist Mathew Madhavacheril, "We have created a new mass map utilizing aberrations of light left over from the Big Bang" . Surprisingly, it offers data that demonstrate that the 'lumpiness' of the universe and the rate at which it is expanding after 14 billion years of evolution are exactly what you'd anticipate from our accepted cosmological model based on Einstein's theory of gravity.

Antimatter particles, which are similar to matter particles but have the opposite electrical charges, are thought to have been abundant in the cosmos that emerged from the Big Bang.

If matter and antimatter were created equally, they would have destroyed all of the universe's matter as they destroy one another when they collide. Pockets of the initial plasma of the cosmos were, however, preserved by the rapidly expanding fabric of space-time and a few helping quantum disturbances.

Gravity then squeezed and heated these plasma pockets in accordance with Einstein's theory of relativity, causing sound waves known as baryon acoustic oscillations to ripple outward from the clumps at half the speed of light. The baby cosmic web was formed as these enormous waves pushed out matter that hadn't already been drawn in on themselves. It was made up of a network of thin films that surrounded innumerable cosmic holes, much like a nest of soap bubbles in a sink.

When this stuff cooled, it formed the earliest stars, which gathered into matter-rich galaxies at the spots where the tangled threads of the web met.

Yet, astronomers who studied the cosmic web in the past discovered what appeared to be a huge disparity – the matter was noticeably more uniformly dispersed and less lumpy than predicted. The fact that key components were absent from existing cosmological models was a concerning indicator.

The Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in Chile, which scanned a fourth of the whole night sky from 2007 to 2022, was used by the researchers to investigate this apparent disparity. The cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), which was produced barely 380,000 years after the Big Bang, was detected by the telescope's highly sensitive microwave detector. The CMB's matter concentrations were then mapped via gravitational lensing.

In a process known as gravitational lensing, light that is traveling through a region of space-time that has been bent by strong gravitational fields bends, warps, and twists until it forms an Einstein ring, which is an extended arc. Dark matter, which makes up 85% of the universe's stuff but cannot be directly viewed, can be found by gravitational lensing.

The new map refuted earlier ones created using visible light from galaxies and demonstrated how much more accurate Einstein's original idea was than previously believed.

It is still too early to say what this means for our overall understanding of the early universe, but the researchers speculate that future maps created using ACT data and new observations from the Simons Observatory, a telescope being built in the Atacama Desert that can scan the sky 10 times as quickly as ACT, may help to solve the baffling cosmic puzzle.