Yen-Chi Chen, assistant professor in the Department of Statistics, helped astronomers identify how the oldest light in the Universe is distorted by the filaments in the cosmic web.

The cosmic web is a filamentary network in our Universe consists of many tubelike structures, known as the filaments. Filaments describe the regions where matter aggregated together. Because of the gravity, astronomers conjectured that light will be distorted when it passed through a filament. In particular, light from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the oldest light in the Universe, have passed through several filaments before being observed by us so they should carry distortion signatures due to filaments.

In a recent Nature Astronomy publication, Chen and his collaborators successfully detected distortions of CMB light due to filaments. They first identified filaments using novel statistical methods and then used models and theories from Astrophyics to facilitate the detection of the distortion effect.