Scientists believe they have made stunning discovery of elusive 'dark matter' signal

The discovery could lead to huge advances in astronomy, and to the creation of telescopes specifically designed to study dark matter.
By Harry Marcolis | Dec 29, 2018
Have scientists detected dark matter for the very first time? Two groups of scientists say they may have done just that after analyzing the X-rays of two celestial objects in galaxies far away.

Dark matter is purely hypothetical and only shows up in models of physics in the gravitational force. This is because when physicists study the dynamics of galaxies and the movements of stars, the equations don't add up when they factor in visible matter alone. There appears to be other forces acting on the rotation of planetary objects and the gravitational forces in our universe, hence the explanation of dark matter, according to a Business Standard report.

This dark matter doesn't interact with light, but does meddle with gravitational forces. It is believed to make up at least 80 percent of the known universe. Now, scientists are saying they've observed it for the first time.

Two groups, both led by a professor in Switzerland and a professor and the Netherlands, analyzed reams of X-rays emitted by a celestial object in the Perseus galaxy cluster and one in the Andromeda galaxy. Using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton telescope, they collected thousands of signals from the objects and eliminated the signals that came from known particles and atoms, allowing them to detect an anomaly that raised a flag.

In the X-ray spectrum, it is a weak, atypical photo emission that couldn't be attribute to visible matter. It lined up with scientists' expectations on what a dark matter signal would look like -- a weaker signal that scattered around the edges of the concentrated and more intense energy from visible matter.

To verify their findings, they looked at data from the Milky Way and found that same thing.

It's not easy to make such an observation. Scientists had to observe a rare event in the universe, which is a photo emitted after a hypothetical particles is destroyed.

The discovery of dark matter could lead to a huge step forward in the realm of particle physics, which could in turn lead to a new era of astronomy. Scientists could theoretically design new types of telescopes just for studying dark matter signals.

The study was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Dark matter cannot be seen directly with current telescopes, as it does not emit or absorb light or other electromagnetic radiation, at least not at a significant level. Scientists must instead observe dark matter through gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation, and the overall structure of the universe as a whole. Scientists believe that the universe is made of 4.9 percent visible matter, 26.8 percent dark matter, and 68.3 percent dark energy, meaning that dark matter makes up 84.5 percent of all known matter in the universe. Combined with dark energy, it makes up 95.1 percent of all known content in the universe.

Dutch astronomer Jan Oort was the first to hypothesize the existence of dark matter back in 1932 to account for the orbit velocities of Milky Way stars, and the next year by another astronomer for "missing mass" in orbital velocities of galaxies.

The pursuit of a greater understand of dark matter has prompted scientists to seek out the Higgs boson, or "God particle," which is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics. It led scientists to build the massive Large Hardon Collider underground in Europe, a miles-long tube that allows scientists to observe the collision of particles, and eventually led to the confirmed discovery of the Higgs boson last year.


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