Dark matter seemed to be a myth to some scientists and a catch-all to others, using it to explain gravitational forces and the orbits of objects in space that just couldn’t be accounted for by the existence of observable, physical matter. It has been theorized that dark matter existed and affected the way the universe functioned as much as physical matter, but until now, dark matter has only been a theory. Dark matter is thought to interact by means of gravitational forces but does not interact with light, making it difficult to quantify.
Scientists at EPFL’s Laboratory of Particle Physics and Cosmology (LPPC) and Leiden University may have changed that with their discovery. After reviewing massive amounts of X-ray data, they believe they may have identified the signal from a particle of dark matter. The research and ensuing discovery of a dark matter particle, which will be published next week in Physical Review Letters, was achieved through the study of X-rays emitted by the Perseus galaxy cluster and the Andromeda galaxy. The process by which this discovery of dark matter was made involved analyzing thousands of signals received through the ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope and eliminating every signal identified as having come from known particles and atoms. Once those signals were eliminated, they were still left with an anomaly that could not be explained by either mechanical or human error, according to the report on Science Blog. The weak, atypical photon emission could not be explained by any other form of known matter, leading the researchers toward the conclusion that they had found a signal from a dark matter particle.
“It could usher in a new era in astronomy,” said EPFL scientist Oleg Ruchayskiy. “Confirmation of this discovery may lead to construction of new telescopes specially designed for studying the signals from dark matter particles,” adds Boyarsky. “We will know where to look in order to trace dark structures in space and will be able to reconstruct how the Universe has formed.”
Leiden University’s Dr. Alexey Boyarasky commented that, although dark matter seems to be omnipresent and essential to the gravitational forces of the universe, it seems to be nearly impossible to glimpse its mere existence. Dr. Boyarasky is hopeful that this discovery will lead to the development of better technologies specifically designed to quantify the existence of dark matter, but cautioned that more verification of this particle of dark matter is needed first. Beta Wired reports that better telescopes may be developed in the future to more accurately measure the existence of dark matter particles, giving researchers more insight into how the universe was formed billions of years ago.
In related news, a space station astronaut responds to questions regarding the existence of U.F.O. phenomenon.