Existence of dark matter questioned by new observations

Dark matter is a hypothetical type of invisible matter that has never been directly observed because it does not emit or interact with electromagnetic radiation.
By Delila James | Feb 06, 2018
An international team of astronomers led by the University of Basel in Switzerland has looked at the movement and distribution of satellite galaxies in the constellation Centaurus A and finds that their observations call into question the existence of dark matter.

The findings are reported in the journal Science.

Dark matter is a hypothetical type of invisible matter that has never been directly observed because it does not emit or interact with electromagnetic radiation. Its existence has been inferred by its apparent influences on visible matter and light.

According to the standard model of cosmology, which assumes the existence of dark matter, these satellite galaxies ought to be distributed randomly and should orbit their host galaxies in a disordered way. A few years ago, however, astronomers observing the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies found "satellite galaxies are arranged in disc-shaped planes around the host galaxy and co-rotate within such planes," according to a university statement.

At first, astronomers considered these organized structures to be isolated cases. But now, new observations by a team led by Oliver Mller at the University of Basel's Department of Physics suggest they are much more common than previously believed.

"Coherent movement seems to be a universal phenomenon that demands new explanations," say Mller, in the statement.

It is possible the movements of these coordinated star systems were created by the merging of galaxies an explanation that could fit with the current understanding of dark matter, says co-author Marcel Pawlowski, an astrophysicist at the University of California Irvine, in a report by the Los Angeles Times.

"Perhaps most excitingly, any potential resolution of the puzzle of satellite planes is interesting," writes Michael Boylan-Kolchin of the University of Texas at Austin, in a commentary to the study. "At worst, we improve our understanding of galaxy formation; at best, we are led to a deeper understanding of the laws of physics."

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