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News Release 387 of 1025

May 15, 2007 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2007-17

Hubble Finds Ring of Dark Matter

May 15, 2007: Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a ghostly ring of dark matter that formed long ago during a titanic collision between two massive galaxy clusters. The ring's discovery is among the strongest evidence yet that dark matter exists. Astronomers have long suspected the existence of the invisible substance as the source of additional gravity that holds together galaxy clusters. Such clusters would fly apart if they relied only on the gravity from their visible stars. Although astronomers don't know what dark matter is made of, they hypothesize that it is a type of elementary particle that pervades the universe.

This Hubble composite image shows the ring of dark matter in the galaxy cluster Cl 0024+17. The ring-like structure is evident in the blue map of the cluster's dark matter distribution. The map was derived from Hubble observations of how the gravity of the cluster Cl 0024+17 distorts the light of more distant galaxies, an optical illusion called gravitational lensing. Although astronomers cannot see dark matter, they can infer its existence by mapping the distorted shapes of the background galaxies. The map is superimposed on a Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys image of the cluster taken in November 2004.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, M. J. Jee and H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University)