In a New Hubble Picture, Darkish Matter Anchors the Big Galaxy Cluster Abell 611

Darkish matter. It’s secret. It’s darkish as a result of it doesn’t give off any gentle. We are able to’t see it, style it, contact it, odor it, and even really feel it. However, astronomers can measure this darkish secret of the universe. How? By galaxies and galaxy clusters. Darkish matter exerts a gravitational affect on these areas, and that CAN be measured.

Simply check out this picture of Abell 611. It’s a galaxy cluster that lies about 3.2 billion light-years away from us. At first look you suppose, “yeah, it’s a cluster of galaxies, so what?” For astronomers although, this cluster poses a problem. They know from measuring it that there’s not sufficient mass within the galaxies and the cluster to maintain the entire thing from flying aside. Due to this fact, gravity have to be holding it collectively. However, the place’s the “stuff” that has the gravitational affect? It’s not simply the stuff we will see within the galaxies. It should even be darkish matter.

The Cosmic Stuff that Confounds Understanding

The existence of galaxies and clusters that aren’t flying aside is a widely known problem to astronomers, and never simply in Abell 611. Astronomer Vera Rubin and her workforce tackled the mismatch between a galaxy’s rotation fee and its mass again within the mid-Twentieth century. They noticed galaxies that appear to have extra mass than their rotation speeds would recommend. It wasn’t a brand new drawback—astronomer Fritz Zwicky discovered Hubble’s observations of the Coma Cluster of galaxies puzzling again within the Thirties. Some galaxies in that cluster look like shifting too quick and that ought to have blown the cluster aside. Zwicky puzzled over it and determined that some unknown factor he known as “dunkle Materie” (darkish matter) would possibly clarify the anomaly.

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In the present day, astronomers nonetheless grapple with understanding this cosmic “stuff.” Not simply because galaxy clusters aren’t flying aside. Or that galaxies aren’t both. It seems that the universe isn’t just stars and galaxies and nebulae and planets. About 85 % of the mass within the Universe is darkish matter. Examine that to the mass we will see—also referred to as regular matter or baryonic matter. That contains solely about 5 %.

A simulation of dark matter distribution in the universe.A pc simulation of the distribution of matter within the universe. Orange areas host galaxies; blue constructions are fuel and darkish matter. Credit score: TNG Collaboration

So, we all know it’s there in most (however not all) galaxies. However what IS darkish matter? Plenty of theories abound, however they boil down to 2 potentialities. It might be a kind of particle that exists everywhere in the Universe however doesn’t work together with gentle. Or, it would encompass an intensive inhabitants of huge objects that may’t be detected with our present technology. So, they’re both WIMPs (weakly interacting huge particles) or MACHOs (huge astrophysical compact halo objects. Astronomers have regarded throughout for this stuff. To this point, no credible detections exist, aside from to notice that no matter these things is, it’s protecting galaxies and clusters from disintegrating.

Darkish Matter and Clusters

And, that brings us again to Abell 611. It’s really an excellent check topic for the thought of darkish matter. Astronomers know that galaxies and clusters are dominated by their darkish matter parts. In Abell 611, the cluster’s look offers proof for astronomers to measure the quantity of darkish matter there. Gravitational lensing, for instance, is the most effective seen proof. The curves of sunshine throughout the cluster are literally pictures of extra distant galaxies whose gentle is being distorted by gravity because it passes via. The mass of the galaxies within the cluster isn’t sufficient to make these distortions. So, one thing else needs to be doing it—and that might be darkish matter within the cluster.

SMACS cluster from JWST shows evidence of dark matterThe galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as seen by NIRCam on JWST. Gravitational lensing properties (from its mass and from the mass of darkish matter) are serving to astronomers establish 88 distant galaxies on this subject of view for additional examine. Courtesy NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Actually, clusters throughout the Universe present this impact of darkish matter haloes surrounding them. Certainly one of JWST’s first pictures exhibits the gravitational lensing brought on by the halo across the cluster SMACS J0723.3-7327. It has hundreds of galaxies surrounded by a darkish matter halo. Every galaxy additionally has a element of darkish matter. The result’s the wonderful show of lensed galaxies seen within the picture. All of them lie at excessive distances behind the SMACS cluster, and their gentle is smeared into arcs by the gravitational domination of the darkish matter. The truth that this identical scene performs out throughout many clusters all through the Universe tells us that darkish matter is actual, even when astronomers haven’t but discovered what it’s.

For Extra Data

A Cosmic Cobweb
Darkish Power, Darkish Matter
Separating Galaxies from the Cluster Darkish Matter Halo in Abell 611

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