Science

Now you see it (sort of)…

We, your Skepchick bloggers, have been writing a lot about space recently. Well, it’s going to continue another day. Sorry, all you Earth-ists.

Researchers announced Sunday that they created a gigantic 3-D map of the universe, which is cool enough on its own and even cooler when you find out that they pinpointed the location of dark matter. The existence of dark matter has been debated since the 1930s, but this new evidence puts much of that debate to rest (there are still other theories floating around to explain the effects we believe are attributed to dark matter).

As usual, I went to my first source on all things starry: my deliciously smart and sexy pal Phil Plait, who is currently at the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Seattle and who did not pay me any money to mention how smart and sexy he is. (For the skeptics: smart, sexy. QED.) Phil wrote a very clear and understandable piece on how the 3-D map was created and what it means. If it’s too early in the morning and you haven’t had your coffee yet, just check out the high resolution of the image to the right. I stared at it for a good ten minutes before my eyes started to water from the unconscious lack of blinking. I think I’ll write the kind folks at Hubble and ask if they’ll kindly print out the highest resolution of all 49 panels (shown here is just a single panel) so that I can wallpaper my bedroom.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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4 Comments

  1. I didn't realise how many astronomy related blogs and webpages I read until this years AAS meeting. Now I'm getting *loads* of fun and awesome astronomy news :)

    Hubble ST continues to be just amazing.

  2. Actually, if I read Phil's blog entry correctly, what they mapped is just a tiny sliver of the sky, 2 degrees on the side (which is about 4 times the diameter of the full moon). They mapped 2 million galaxies in that little area; the whole sky is actually more than 10,000 times bigger! That would be 20 billion galaxies. And yet that mapping took the effort of some 100 scientists and the best gear we have. That tells you there is a LOT of stuff in our universe.

    The picture is awesome indeed. The larger galaxies in it, like the spiral near the top, are truly next-door neighbours of our own Galaxy. The tiny specks are some 6 billion years away – that light was emitted before our solar system formed. In the meantime those distant galaxies have receded even more and may be some 10 billion light-years from us.

    Now if you want a Nobel all you have to do is determine what Dark Matter actually is.

  3. Yeah, I saw something about the discovery of dark matter yesterday evening on "The sky at night" on BBC1. Or maybe it was Sunday night.

    Anyway, fascinating stuff. This dark matter makes up many times more of the mass of the universe than the kind of matter we're made of (if I understood correctly). Quite interesting if you think about it …

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