For the first time ever, scientists have captured an image of a dark matter bridge, confirming the theory that galaxies are held together by a cosmic web. Until now, the massive dark matter web was hidden to us, but using a series of individual images to create a composite, researchers have identified the elusive cosmic connector.

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Dark matter makes up about a quarter of the universe, but it is difficult for us to detect it because it doesn’t reflect or shine light. But using a technique called weak gravitational lensing, researchers were able to identify distortions of distant galaxies as they are influenced by a large, unseen mass, such as dark matter.

Related: Newly discovered ‘ghost galaxy’ full of dark matter is as big as the Milky Way

The scientists looked at more than 23,000 galaxy pairs to create a composite image that shows the dark matter web for the first time. Researchers published their findings in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. “By using this technique, we’re not only able to see that these dark matter filaments in the universe exist, we’re able to see the extent to which these filaments connect galaxies together,” said Seth D. Epps, one of the scientists, along with Michael J. Hudson, who completed the research.


images via Epps and Hudson, The weak-lensing masses of filaments between luminous red galaxies