Dark Matter from the Dark Energy Survey

I’m a bit late onto this story which has already been quite active in the media today, and has generated an associated flurry of activity on social media, but I thought it was still worth passing it on via the medium of this blog. The Dark Energy Survey has just released a number of papers onto the arXiv, the most interesting of which (to me) is entitled Wide-Field Lensing Mass Maps from DES Science Verification Data. The abstract reads as follows (the link was added by me):

Weak gravitational lensing allows one to reconstruct the spatial distribution of the projected mass density across the sky. These “mass maps” provide a powerful tool for studying cosmology as they probe both luminous and dark matter. In this paper, we present a weak lensing mass map reconstructed from shear measurements in a 139 deg^2 area from the Dark Energy Survey (DES) Science Verification (SV) data overlapping with the South Pole Telescope survey. We compare the distribution of mass with that of the foreground distribution of galaxies and clusters. The overdensities in the reconstructed map correlate well with the distribution of optically detected clusters. Cross-correlating the mass map with the foreground galaxies from the same DES SV data gives results consistent with mock catalogs that include the primary sources of statistical uncertainties in the galaxy, lensing, and photo-z catalogs. The statistical significance of the cross-correlation is at the 6.8 sigma level with 20 arcminute smoothing. A major goal of this study is to investigate systematic effects arising from a variety of sources, including PSF and photo-z uncertainties. We make maps derived from twenty variables that may characterize systematics and find the principal components. We find that the contribution of systematics to the lensing mass maps is generally within measurement uncertainties. We test and validate our results with mock catalogs from N-body simulations. In this work, we analyze less than 3% of the final area that will be mapped by the DES; the tools and analysis techniques developed in this paper can be applied to forthcoming larger datasets from the survey.

This is by no means a final result from the Dark Energy Survey, as it was basically put together in order to test the telescope, but it is interesting from the point of view that it represents a kind of proof of concept. Here is one of the key figures from the paper which shows a reconstruction of the mass distribution of the Universe (dominated by dark matter) obtained indirectly by the Dark Energy Survey using distortions of galaxy images produced by gravitational lensing by foreground objects, onto which the positions of large galaxy clusters seen in direct observations have been plotted. Although this is just a small part of the planned DES study (it covers only 0.4% of the sky) it does seem to indicate that the strong concentrations of dark matter (red) do corrrelate with the positions of concentrations of galaxy clusters.

DES_MAP

It all seems to work, so hopefully we can look forward to lots of interesting science results in future!

P.S. When I first saw the map it looked like a map of the North of England Midlands and I was surprised to see that the survey showed such strong support for the Greens…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: