SCIENTISTS have made a huge breakthrough in their understanding of the mysterious dark matter after discovering a stunning cosmic web which fills the entire universe.
Dark matter baffles even the brainiest boffins who still struggle to explain exactly what it is.
Dark matter was first conceptualised in 1977 by scientists who suggested that the substance, which is thought to make up 27 per cent of the universe, is responsible for all of the unseen matter in the cosmos.
Its existence would go towards explaining why galaxies rotate and why they stick together, rather than stars flying off in all directions.
However, research carried out by an international team composed of researchers from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) and the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, the Institute of Astronomy of Cambridge and the University of Washington has led to a major breakthrough.
The mysterious “cosmic web” is a network of filaments made up of gas and dark matter which is illuminated by distant galaxies.
Hydrogen and photons – light or electromagnetic quantum particles – interact with the filament the create absorption lines which are known as the “Lyman-alpha forest” – which looks like a spider web which spans the universe.
These light interactions give scientists an unprecedented glimpse of dark matter across the universe.
Through computer simulations, the researchers were able to offer more detail into what the ingredients of the universe are.
It had been theorised that dark matter was made up of two sub-categories – Cold Dark Matter (CDM), which contains slow moving particles, and Fuzzy Dark Matter (FDM), which has particles that move much faster.
However, the research has shown that there is no FDM, moving experts one giant step closer to finally discovering what dark matter is.
Lead author and University of Washington Department of Astronomy postdoctoral researcher Vid Iršič told Phys.org: “For decades, theoretical physicists have tried to understand the properties of the particles and forces that must make up dark matter.
“What we have done is place constraints on what dark matter could be—and ‘fuzzy dark matter,’ if it were to make up all of the dark matter, is not consistent with our data.”