Scientists Say They’ve Discovered a Way to See and Map ‘Dark Matter’

Dark Matter is nearly impossible to detect.

Dark matter remains as one of the greatest enigmas to science.

It doesn’t interact with baryonic matter. It has been found to be completely invisible to light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, making dark matter impossible to detect with current instruments.

What do we know?

Abell S1063, a galaxy cluster, was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope as part of the Frontier Fields programme. The huge mass of the cluster — containing both baryonic matter and dark matter — acts as cosmic magnification glass and deforms objects behind it. In the past astronomers used this gravitational lensing effect to calculate the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters. A more accurate and faster way, however, is to study the intracluster light (visible in blue), which follows the distribution of dark matter. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia).
Abell S1063, a galaxy cluster, was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope as part of the Frontier Fields programme. The huge mass of the cluster — containing both baryonic matter and dark matter — acts as cosmic magnification glass and deforms objects behind it. In the past astronomers used this gravitational lensing effect to calculate the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters. A more accurate and faster way, however, is to study the intracluster light (visible in blue), which follows the distribution of dark matter. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia).

Well, from our limited understanding, scientists believe that dark matter is a hypothetical form of matter that is thought to account for approximately 85% of the matter in the universe, and about a quarter of its total energy density.

Now, scientists say they are one step closer to solving the mysteries behind this elusive form of matter.

Thanks to new data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope, an international team of researchers believes it has found a new, revolutionary way to see dark matter.

Relying on faint starlight emitted by distant galaxy clusters, scientists say that they can map out the distribution of the elusive material.

A recent study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers from Australia and Spain explain how the intercluster light can help them spot dark matter.

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster MACS J0416. This is one of six being studied by the Hubble Frontier Fields programme, which together have produced the deepest images of gravitational lensing ever made. Scientists used intracluster light (visible in blue) to study the distribution of dark matter within the cluster. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia).
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster MACS J0416. This is one of six being studied by the Hubble Frontier Fields programme, which together have produced the deepest images of gravitational lensing ever made. Scientists used intracluster light (visible in blue) to study the distribution of dark matter within the cluster. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia).

“We have found a way to ‘see’ dark matter,” explained Mireia Montes, from the University of New South Wales.

“We have found that very faint light in galaxy clusters, the intracluster light, maps how dark matter is distributed. These stars have an identical distribution to the dark matter, as far as our current technology allows us to study,” Montes adds.

Scientists note that their new technique is far more accurate than any other method used until now. Furthermore, they say that their technique is also much more efficient.

Previously, scientists relied on Gravitational Lensing in order to try and map the universe’s dark matter.

Scientists theorize that the gravitational pull of the elusive matter plays an important role in gravitational lensing; the bending of light around distant galaxies and galactic clusters.

The scientists say that this will allow for the observation of more galaxy clusters in the same amount of time, and will also help them get to the bottom of dark matter.

“If dark matter is self-interacting we could detect this as tiny departures in the dark matter distribution compared to this very faint stellar glow,” explained co-author Ignacio Trujillo.

“There are exciting possibilities that we should be able to probe in the upcoming years by studying hundreds of galaxy clusters,” Trujillo added.

Source
Space Telescope
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