Images by Date
Images by Category
Solar System
Stars
White Dwarfs
Supernovas
Neutron Stars
Black Holes
Milky Way Galaxy
Normal Galaxies
Quasars
Galaxy Clusters
Cosmology/Deep Field
Miscellaneous
Images by Interest
Chandra for Kids
Multiwavelength
Sky Map
Constellations
3D Wall
Photo Blog
Top Rated Images
Image Handouts
Desktops
High Res Prints
Fits Files
Image Tutorials
Photo Album Tutorial
False Color
Cosmic Distance
Look-Back Time
Scale & Distance
Angular Measurement
Images & Processing
AVM/Metadata
Getting Hard Copies
Image Use Policy
Web Shortcuts
Chandra Blog
RSS Feed
Chandra Mobile
Chronicle
Email Newsletter
News & Noteworthy
Image Use Policy
Questions & Answers
Glossary of Terms
Download Guide
Get Adobe Reader
Space Scoop
The Weird Shape of Weird Stuff

It's easy to assume that what we see and experience in our daily lives is 'the norm'. However, as astronomers learn more about our Universe, they're finding that sometimes the weird and wonderful stuff is actually more popular. For example, astronomers think there is about six times more invisible material in space than visible stuff! Astronomers call this invisible stuff 'dark matter'.

This new space photo shows a huge collection of galaxies - a 'galaxy cluster' - that contains loads of dark matter. Although dark matter is invisible, astronomers can still work out where it is in space from the effect that its gravity has on the things around it - like seeing a sofa cushion being pushed down by an invisible man. In the photo, the gravity of both the visible and dark matter is so strong that it has bent the light coming from distant galaxies. In some cases, the effect is so strong that the galaxies look like they have been stretched into arc shapes!

By looking at the distorted shapes of these galaxies, a team of astronomers has worked out how the invisible material is spread out in the galaxy cluster. Surprisingly, they found that the dark matter isn't spread out like a basketball, as they had expected, but that it is shaped more like an American football.

Understanding how the dark matter is distributed will give astronomers many clues about how the Universe has grown and changed over time.

Cool fact: In addition to dark matter, there is also dark energy in the Universe. Dark energy isn't invisible material. But it's called dark energy because astronomers are in the dark about what it is!

More information
This Space Scoop is based on a NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory Press Release.

Links
Space Scoop is also available in:

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Caltech/A.Newman et al/Tel Aviv/A.Morandi & M.Limousin; Optical: NASA/STScI, ESO/VLT, SDSS


This is a kids' version of Chandra Press Release Abell 383 (March 14, 2012)

Do you want to learn more about this topic?

Visit the Chandra field guide or send us your questions in an email: cxcpub@cfa.harvard.edu




In cooperation with Space Scoop: Bringing news from across the Universe to children all around the world. Universe Awareness and the Chandra X-ray Observatory


Children & Online Privacy
RSS feed