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Existence of dark matter confirmed by new study

In the realm of astrophysics, the existence of dark matter has been a prevailing theory used to explain the anomalies observed in the universe. Unlike ordinary matter, dark matter does not emit, absorb, or reflect light, making it invisible and detectable only through its gravitational effects.

Recent computer simulations conducted by a team of astronomers, including those from the University of California, Irvine, provide compelling support for this elusive component of our universe.

Bridging observations and theory

The primary question addressed by the research is whether the universe can be fully explained by the matter that we can see and measure directly or if the concept of dark matter is necessary to account for observations that otherwise remain unexplained.

Currently, the consensus among physicists leans heavily towards the necessity of dark matter to explain phenomena such as the behavior of stars and galaxies.

Study lead author Francisco Mercado, a recent PhD graduate from the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UC Irvine, is now a postdoctoral scholar at Pomona College.

“Our paper shows how we can use real, observed relationships as a basis to test two different models to describe the universe. We put forth a powerful test to discriminate between the two models,” said Mercado.

Existence of dark matter

The team’s approach involved running simulations that incorporated both normal matter and dark matter. These simulations aimed to recreate the features observed in real galaxies, which are challenging to explain without the presence of dark matter.

The findings reveal that these features indeed match those expected in a dark matter universe.

“We show that such features appear in observations of many real galaxies. If we take these data at face value, this reaffirms the position of the dark matter model as the one that best describes the universe we live in,” explained Mercado.

Confirming the role of dark matter

The study also explored the relationship between visible matter and the inferred presence of dark matter in galaxies.

James Bullock, dean of the UCI School of Physical Sciences, provided further insight. “Observed galaxies seem to obey a tight relationship between the matter we see and the inferred dark matter we detect, so much so that some have suggested that what we call dark matter is really evidence that our theory of gravity is wrong,” said Professor Bullock.

“What we showed is that not only does dark matter predict the relationship, but for many galaxies it can explain what we see more naturally than modified gravity. I come away even more convinced that dark matter is the right model.”

Interestingly, the observations that confirmed these features were initially conducted by proponents of a dark matter-free universe.

“The observations we examined – the very observations where we found these features – were conducted by adherents of dark matter-free theories. Despite their obvious presence, little-to-no analysis was performed on these features by that community. It took folks like us, scientists working with both regular and dark matter, to start the conversation,” noted Professor Jorge Moreno of Pomona College.

The future of dark matter research

“As stars are born and die, they explode into supernovae, which can shape the centers of galaxies, naturally explaining the existence of these features,” said Moreno. “Simply put, the features we examined in observations require both the existence of dark matter and the incorporation of normal-matter physics.”

With the dark matter model gaining traction as the most accurate description of the universe, the researchers are not resting on their laurels.

Mercado shared his vision for the next steps: “It would be interesting to see if we could use this same relationship to even distinguish between different dark matter models. Understanding how this relationship changes under distinct dark matter models could help us constrain the properties of dark matter itself.”

As the research continues, the hope is that further simulations and observations will not only validate the presence of dark matter but also help refine our understanding of its properties, potentially leading to groundbreaking discoveries in our comprehension of the cosmos.

The study is published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


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