Dark matter has confused scientists for decades. Although it makes up a vast majority of the Universe, it cannot be seen. Dark matter does not emit, absorb, or reflect any light, thus making it nearly impossible to detect. Though, scientists now know it exists due to the measurement of its gravity warping space through the notion of gravitational lensing.
John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, stated in the search to uncover more about the mysteries regarding dark matter, they observed what happens when clusters of galaxies run into one another. Grunsfled and his team utilized NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory to find colliding galaxies. In their study, they viewed 72 galaxy clusters that were in the middle of colliding with one another. He stated his team was only able to view dark matter properties at the very moment of the galactic collision. “Now that we have studied so many more collisions, we can start to piece together the full movie and better understand what is going on,” said team member Richard Massey.
By viewing the collisions of galaxy clusters, researchers can narrow down the properties of dark matter. When galaxies clusters collide, the clouds of gas around the circumference smash into one another, slow down or even come to a complete standstill. Though, galaxies are not really able to completely slow down, for they have massive gaps in between the stars within. The researchers found that just like galaxies, dark matter is nearly unaffected by the intense collisions. This means that dark matter does not interact with normally visible matter. Moreover, its interaction with other matter of its shadowy characteristics is much less significant, therefore, much more strange than previously thought. As a result, their discovery aids the way in which they can find the quantum properties of dark matter, as well as what it is not.
The discovery shows that scientists can now disregard anything that would result in a strong frictional force during a collision. One of the researchers explained there are multiple viable answers for dark matter, none of which can be proven at the current time, but can be better theorized. He stated the Large Hadron Collider has the ability to help them get a small glimpse into the unforeseen world that is all around everything that can be viewed.
The most popular theory behind dark matter is that is could be a collection of “supersymmetric” subatomic particles. Supersymmetry is the theory that all particles in the Standard Model have a larger supersymmetric partner through the notion of quantum entanglement. Thus, this is one of the main things scientists want to find by using the Large Hadron Collider, the evidence of supersymmetry.
The search for dark matter is now at the forefront of particle physics, more than it has ever been. Although nearly nothing has been proven from the theories surmised, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider are making forward progress. Even though dark matter is now considered to be more elusive and strange than once thought, a few more vital clues have been unearthed to find its origin.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Judy Schmidt – Flickr License