Image of Stephen's Quintet of five galaxies taken by the James Webb Space Telescope

Dark Matter: An Invisible Glue That Might Not Even Exist | Science | Tech Insights |

It’s never been discovered, it’s just speculation. But scientists estimate that as much as 85 percent of the matter in the universe may be made up of so-called dark matter.

Scientists can’t define dark matter with certainty, but that hasn’t stopped the search for it. Our largest and newest space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, is just that.

Not long after the first photo taken by the telescope on July 12, 2022, Kai Noeske said something that was both mysterious and true.

Astronomer Noske of the European Space Observation Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, points to an image of Stephen’s Quintet, a cluster of five galaxies that has never been seen before passed.

Looking at the images of Stephen’s Quintet, astronomer Kenoske said: “There’s a lot out there that we don’t know. […] One of them could be dark matter. “

He said: “There’s a lot out there that we don’t know. And we don’t know what we don’t know. [But] One of them could be dark matter. ”

an accidental discovery

In the 19th century, Scottish-Irish physicist Lord Kelvin wanted to estimate the mass of our galaxy using data on the speed at which stars move around the Milky Way’s core.

But Kelvin found discrepancies or anomalies in the data that couldn’t be explained and attributed to “dark bodies” we couldn’t see.

“According to estimates, the Milky Way appears to be spinning much faster than it should,” explains Tevong You, a theorist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Subsurface image of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator

The theory, you say, is that there is an “invisible matter” that determines the rotational speed of our galaxy. Other galaxies may as well.

Stars have been observed traveling at higher-than-estimated speeds, especially at the edges of galaxies. It’s weird.

Stars should relax and ‘fly away’

Imagine you attach a rock to a rope and spin it at high speed. If the speed exceeds a certain threshold, the stone loosens and flies away – at this point, the rope becomes too weak to catch the stone, as the stone will speed up and gain more strength.

But astronomers have observed stars that continue to orbit the Milky Way’s center, even though the ropes connecting them to the Milky Way should have been torn and the stars should have “flyed away.”

The only explanation the astronomers have is that there must be some invisible substance holding the stone in range. Maybe this elusive dark matter?

This is still an open question. There are many other anomalies, such as the shapes of some galaxies, including our Milky Way, that have so far been unexplained.

We can’t see dark matter, but we might see its effects

The reason we can’t see or detect this invisible matter, scientists say, is that it doesn’t interact with electromagnetic forces — such as visible light, X-rays or radio waves.

However, they think we can observe some of the effects of dark matter through its gravity.

But we still want to detect dark matter itself. That’s where CERN’s Large Hadron Collider comes in. Tevong You and other researchers at CERN believe the LHC is our best chance at detecting dark matter.

Particle detector poster at CERN's Large Hadron Collider

When particles collide at the LHC, the resulting fragments are captured by such detectors. This is one of the detectors that illustrates the LHC.

A decade ago, experiments at the Large Hadron Collider demonstrated the Standard Model of particle physics by detecting the Higgs boson particle — a particle that itself has long proven elusive.

The Standard Model believes that everything in the universe is made up of a few elementary particles governed by four fundamental forces – the strong, the weak, electromagnetism and gravity.

Tevong You says the LHC could help solve the mystery of dark matter. But even now, you suspect that dark matter is nothing like the particles we know from the Standard Model.

“It has to interact very weakly. It can’t interact with light or electromagnetism. It can’t interact with the strong force, and it probably interacts through the weak force that causes radioactivity,” You said.

If this reads like a mystery, you’re not alone. Scientists are still trying to figure this out on their own.

Measuring dark matter by what’s missing

The Large Hadron Collider smashes particles together to create collisions. The debris from the collision is captured by particle detectors.

It’s like if you smash two apples together, the shards will fly in all directions and get caught in the walls and floor. Those apples are still fruit, but they’re going to be a little different too. Even so, if we then collect all the apple pieces, including the juice, we would theoretically have all the pieces to reconstruct the two original apples.

The same goes for elementary particles. We smash them up, they break apart and eject them onto the LHC detector, and if we put them back together, we should be able to explain all the parts that made these primordial particles.

But if after this, we find something is missing…especially energy or mass, because energy is also known…well, when it comes to particle physics, scientists tend to think there must be some darkness or Invisible Matter – Elements we can’t see, but they are an important part of the whole thing.

Andre David, an experimental physicist at CERN who builds particle detectors, said that if energy is lost after a collision, that energy has likely been transferred into dark matter.

“The Higgs boson interacts with all other elements that have mass. So dark matter must [also] Having mass is to achieve the effect we see in galaxies,” David said.

New theory about dark matter

Some scientists believe that if there were unseen forces in the universe, we would have discovered them long ago, and since we haven’t detected them, they suggest that we should think outside the Standard Model.

One of these scientists is physicist Mordehai Milgrom. Milgrom developed another theory of gravity that showed that gravity acts differently at different distances from the galaxy’s core.

While Newton’s theory of gravity explained most large-scale motions in the universe, Milgrom’s modified Newtonian dynamics showed that when forces are weak, such as at the edges of galaxies, they act differently.

Advocates of the theory say it predicts the rotation of galaxies and the velocities of stars better than Newton’s theory.

But we still don’t know if we’ll discover dark matter or prove Milgrom’s modified Newtonian dynamics. What we do know is that our understanding of the universe is far from complete.

Editor: Zulfikar Abbany

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