Scientists have created the most comprehensive map of the universe to date, and it could provide insight into mysterious dark matter.

The spherical map of galaxy superclusters could lead to a better understanding of how matter is distributed in our universe, the University of Waterloo reported.

"The galaxy distribution isn't uniform and has no pattern. It has peaks and valleys much like a mountain range. This is what we expect if the large-scale structure originates from quantum fluctuations in the early universe," said professor Mike Hudson, associate dean of science, computing.

The lighter blue and white areas shown in the map above represent greater concentrations of galaxies, and the red region is a supercluster called the Shapley Concentration; the dark blue areas are yet to be explored.

Mapping out the locations of these galaxies could also help scientists predict how the universe will expand. Scientists have found that galaxies move in different ways (a phenomenon dubbed peculiar velocities) because the universe is not expanding evenly. Past models of the universe have not taken peculiar velocities into account, but this new work aims to pinpoint what structures drive this movement. Understanding the deviations in the motion of galaxies could shed light on the distribution of dark matter, which is believed to make up the majority of the universe's mass.

Hypothesized dark matter is not believed to reflect or emit light, making it almost impossible to measure directly. In order to observe dark matter scientists must look at its gravitational effects on matter and light.

"A better understanding of dark matter is central to understanding the formation of galaxies and the structures they live in, such as galaxy clusters, superclusters and voids," Hudson said.

In the future the researchers plan to obtain more detailed samples of peculiar velocities to make the map even more comprehensive.