An international team of scientists believe that they have finally found a way to “see” dark matter, which is an invisible and elusive substance that makes up 85 percent of the matter in the universe.
As the Daily Mail has reported, in a new study, astronomers hailing from Spain and Australia have written that by using data collected from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers may be able to use starlight from faraway galaxy clusters so that they can spot dark matter and eventually map this mysterious substance.
Since hunting down dark matter through the use of gravitational lensing is extremely cumbersome, astronomers are hopeful that intracluster light will provide them with a less complex path to mapping this dark matter. The new mapping technique that scientists have come up with involves using the imaging capabilities provided by the Hubble Space Telescope to search for single stars that are no longer a part of galaxies.
These solitary stars live out their lives floating through space inside galaxy clusters, but as they float freely they are believed to oftentimes land squarely within dark matter, according to Mireia Montes from the University of New South Wales.
“We have found a way to ‘see’ dark matter. We have found that very faint light in galaxy clusters, the intracluster light, maps how dark matter is distributed. These stars have an identical distribution to the dark matter, as far as our current technology allows us to study.”
Scientists may now be a step closer to understanding the nature of dark matter https://t.co/6wM3cSzGaN
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) December 21, 2018
Scientists involved with this new study have claimed that not only is this method of seeing dark matter much more accurate than previous methods, it is also a more simple and efficient way to locate this invisible matter.
Dark matter has become the mysterious substance that it is because as it doesn’t reflect any light, scientists can only infer its existence through the gravitational effects that it has on other objects and matter around it. However, just because it can’t be directly observed doesn’t mean it’s not there, as the European Space Agency has reminded people.
“Shine a torch in a completely dark room, and you will see only what the torch illuminates. That does not mean that the room around you does not exist. Similarly, we know dark matter exists but have never observed it directly.”
As co-author Ignacio Trujillo has stated about the new study, scientists plan to study numerous galaxy clusters over the course of future years to seek out solitary stars and find the dark matter that may be around them.
“If dark matter is self-interacting we could detect this as tiny departures in the dark matter distribution compared to this very faint stellar glow. There are exciting possibilities that we should be able to probe in the upcoming years by studying hundreds of galaxy clusters.”
The new study on seeing dark matter has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.