Researchers are helping to map the filaments of dark matter that make up our universe by analyzing the behavior of mucus bacteria, a strange single-celled organism, according tomedia CNET. According to a NASA press release, scientists have designed a computer algorithm inspired by this unique creature to try to track the cosmic web, which is considered to be a “massive skeleton of the universe.” They applied the algorithm to data containing the locations of 37,000 galaxies, and then created a 3D map of the cosmic web’s “complex silky network.”
Mucous bacteria are strange creatures that are of great interest to scientists. This single-celled organism can create a silky network in the search for food, optimizing its search path. Remarkably, they lack a “brain”, but mucus bacteria can perform incredible feats, such as finding the shortest path through the maze. Curiously, it creates networks similar to those formed by gravity as it shapes the universe, connecting the Milky Way and galaxy clusters hundreds of millions of light-years along numerous “bridges”.
The cosmic web is mainly made up of dark matter and is encased in gas. Astronomers have been searching for the “filament” of the net, considering that the gas is too dark to detect. So they turned to the humble mucus mold. Using computer algorithms inspired by the behavior of mucus bacteria, they were able to build maps of filaments in the universe within 500 million light-years from Earth.
The researchers compared the algorithm with computer simulations of the growth of dark matter filaments in the universe. Applying the algorithm to data containing the locations of 37,000 galaxies, they were able to simulate a 3D map of the underlying cosmic network structure. However, this is much more complex than writing algorithms. The scientists then analyzed the ultraviolet rays of 350 quasars recorded in the Hubble spectral legacy archives. The researchers used quasars – very bright and remote black holes – to illuminate the cosmic web and see the gases that make up it.
“What’s most fascinating is that one of the simplest forms of life actually gives people insight into the largest structures in the universe,” lead researcher Joseph Burchett of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a press release. By using sticky-mode simulations to find the location of cosmic mesh, including mesh far from the galaxy, we can then use the Hubble Space Telescope’s archive data to detect and determine the air density of the outer perimeter of these mesh. Scientists have detected the characteristics of this gas for decades, and we have demonstrated the theoretical expectation that the gas contains the cosmic web. “
The study supports research that the denser parts of the Milky Way’s gas are divided into filaments that extend more than 10 million light-years from the Milky Way.