Hubble Discovery Hints at a Critical Downside With Our Understanding of Darkish Matter

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It might be extraordinarily optimistic to counsel that we’ve a very good deal with on darkish matter. However even the slight grasp we do have could also be lacking one thing essential.

New observations from the Hubble Area Telescope have discovered a lot larger concentrations of darkish matter than anticipated in some galaxies, by over an order of magnitude.


These concentrations are inconsistent with theoretical fashions, suggesting that there is a huge hole in our understanding – the simulations could possibly be incorrect, or there could possibly be a property of darkish matter we do not absolutely perceive, in response to the analysis workforce.

“We now have completed a whole lot of cautious testing in evaluating the simulations and knowledge on this research, and our discovering of the mismatch persists,” mentioned astrophysicist Massimo Meneghetti of the Nationwide Institute for Astrophysics in Italy.

“One doable origin for this discrepancy is that we could also be lacking some key physics within the simulations.”

Darkish matter is likely one of the greatest thorns in our understanding of the Universe. Merely put, we do not know what it’s. It doesn’t take in, replicate, or emit any electromagnetic radiation, making it fully undetectable in a direct method. Nevertheless, it does work together with the Universe’s seen matter through gravity.

This implies we are able to research how issues like galaxies and stars are distributed and transfer across the Universe, calculate the gravity required to provide these distributions and actions, and calculate and subtract the gravity produced by the seen matter.


The gravity that is left signifies how a lot darkish matter is within the Universe – and, from what we are able to inform, it is rather a lot. As a lot as 85 p.c of the matter within the Universe could possibly be darkish matter.

One of many methods we are able to not directly ‘detect’ darkish matter is thru gravitational lensing. Actually huge objects, like clusters of galaxies, create such an intense gravitational area that spacetime itself curves – which suggests any gentle travelling via that spacetime strikes on a curving path.

So, objects on the far aspect of that gravitational area, similar to distant galaxies, seem to us magnified, smeared, duplicated, and distorted.

Gravitational lensing. (NASA, ESA & L. Calçada)

By learning these distortions and placing the galaxies again collectively, we are able to work out how the sunshine was distorted, which suggests we are able to map the gravitational area – the larger the distortion, the stronger the gravitational area. As soon as once more, subtract the seen matter, et voila – a map of the darkish matter inside that lensing cluster. It is mind-blowingly intelligent.

And that is what Meneghetti and his workforce have been doing, taking a look at observations of 11 galaxy clusters utilizing the Hubble Area Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Massive Telescope in Chile.


“Galaxy clusters are excellent laboratories to grasp if laptop simulations of the Universe reliably reproduce what we are able to infer about darkish matter and its interaction with luminous matter,” he defined.

When the workforce sat right down to analyse the information, they discovered the large-scale lensing results as anticipated to be produced by the galaxy as an entire. However additionally they discovered smaller lensing results nested inside. These small lenses, produced by particular person galaxies throughout the clusters, didn’t seem in simulations of the clusters, suggesting an extra of darkish matter.

To verify their findings, the workforce carried out spectroscopic observations of the galaxies, utilizing the shift of sunshine to calculate the rate of the orbiting stars – a basic software for measuring darkish matter.

They usually double-checked their distance calculations, as a result of that may make a vital distinction to darkish matter calculations.

The researchers discovered that there is a a lot better focus of darkish matter in these particular person galaxies than the simulations allowed for. However the simulations have been based mostly on our greatest understanding of darkish matter – so the place does the extra mass come from?

Nicely, we do not know. However it may be an thrilling journey of discovery.

“To me personally, detecting a gnawing hole – an element of 10 discrepancy on this case – between an commentary and theoretical prediction may be very thrilling,” mentioned astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale College.

“A key purpose of my analysis has been testing theoretical fashions with the enhancing high quality of knowledge to seek out these gaps. It is these sorts of gaps and anomalies which have typically revealed that both we have been lacking one thing within the present concept, or it factors the best way to a brand-new mannequin, which may have extra explanatory energy.”

Both method, discovering what’s inflicting the discrepancy between simulation and commentary is prone to lead us to a stronger understanding of darkish matter.

The analysis has been revealed in Science.

Full cowl picture credit score: NASA, ESA, G. Caminha (College of Groningen), M. Meneghetti (Observatory of Astrophysics and Area Science of Bologna), P. Natarajan (Yale College), the CLASH workforce, and M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)




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