Dark matter is a mysterious substance that has haunted scientists for several decades. Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers were able to detect an unusual cluster of this mysterious substance that did not obey the standard laws of physics, forming much smaller clumps than was predicted by astronomers. According to an article published on the nasa.gov portal, such a strange behavior of the discovered substance may indicate the presence of the so-called “cold dark matter” in the Universe. What could mean the discovery of such a substance for modern physics?
The smallest clusters of dark matter found in the universe
Despite the fact that the very existence of mysterious dark matter has not yet been proven, scientists are finding more and more evidence of its invisible presence from the very moment of the birth of the Universe. According to one of the recently put forward theories, at the time of the formation of galaxies, future clusters of stars and planets are embedded in clouds of dark matter, which consists of slowly moving or “cold” particles, forming structures whose masses range from several hundred masses of the Milky Way galaxy to the mass of a small commercial the plane.
Observations of the Hubble telescope can provide a fresh look at the nature of dark matter and its role in the Universe, because it is this unexplored substance that creates all the building material for future galaxies of our universe. Despite the fact that astronomers cannot see dark matter, it can be detected indirectly by measuring the gravitational effect between stars and galaxies. Small clumps of dark matter, it was decided to call “cold dark matter” due to the fact that the temperature of such formations in theory should significantly decrease as the mass of the cosmic bunch decreases.
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Hunting the dark objects of the Universe, completely devoid of stars, may seem like a very difficult task, but NASA experts decided to use a method in which they did not need to look for gravitational changes in stars as signals about the presence of dark matter. For this, it was decided to consider 8 powerful quasars, the light intensity of each of which was measured for oxygen and neon gas. It is known that this mixture is distorted by the gravity of galaxies in the foreground to the Earth, acting as a powerful magnifying lens.
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As a result of observation with the Hubble telescope, scientists found that the distortion effect, called gravitational lensing, produced four distorted images of each of the quasars under study. Astronomers compared the measurements with how the images of quasars without the influence of dark matter could look like, finding that the distance to the quasars turned out to be approximately 10 billion light years, while the galaxies located in the foreground are two billion years from Earth.
The type of particles that make up dark matter is still a mystery to humanity. However, the NASA experiment showed that the found clusters most likely relate to the class of cold dark matter due to its small size by cosmic standards. Further observations with new-generation telescopes, such as the James Webb telescope or the WFIRST telescope, can show the real sizes of the detected clumps of dark matter, perhaps once throwing light on the nature of an almost mystical substance.