Dark matter may not be as special as thought

A new finding contradicts previous research that suggested dark matter can interact with forces other than gravity.
By Joseph Scalise | Apr 06, 2018
Dark matter does not interact with itself after all, according to new research conducted by astronomers at various U.S. universities and accepted for publishing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Dark matter -- which takes up roughly a third of the universe -- gives off no light. That makes it incredibly difficult to study.

Scientists thought they made progress when three years ago, a group of researchers found evidence that dark matter can interact with forces other than gravity. While searching the distant cosmos they found a galaxy where some dark matter sat outside the galaxy, suggesting it may have been affected by a force other than gravity.

However, this new finding directly contradicts that research and shows the substance does not work in that way.

This research comes from the same team of researchers behind the original study, who used the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) in Chile to analyze the infrared signature of the area around the Abell 3827 cluster.

Unlike last time, they found that the dark matter is well within the confines of its galaxy, revealing that it is not being acted upon in an unusual way.

"We got a higher resolution view of the distant galaxy using ALMA than from even the Hubble Space Telescope," said study co-author Liliya Williams, a researcherfrom the University of Minnesota, in a statement. "The true position of the dark matter became clearer than in our previous observations."

While this shows there is still a lot of work to do in terms of finding and understanding dark matter, scientists are hopeful they will one day discover more about the substance. It is one of the largest mysteries in the universe, and one that would help shed light on a lot of answers.

Though the new findings are a bit disappointing, the team states that they do not mean dark matter does not interact with physics in a strange way. Rather, it could still have unique properties that are not yet known.

"The search for dark matter is frustrating, but that's science," said lead author Richard Massey, a researcher at Durham University, according to Science Alert "Meanwhile the hunt goes on for dark matter to reveal its nature."

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