Dark Matter

Dark Matter was first called “missing matter” because scientists and astronomers couldn’t find it when they observed the universe in any part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dark matter is made up of particles that do not reflect, absorb, or emit light. Because of this, Dark Matter can not be observed using electromagnetic radiation, and thus, Dark Matter cannot be seen directly. You might be wondering then, if it doesn’t emit light, how do we know it exists? Well, we know Dark Matter exists because of the effects it has on objects we can see.

Scientists study Dark Matter by looking at the effects it has on visible objects. They believe that dark matter can be the cause of the unexplained motion of stars within galaxies. Computers allow scientists to create models and predict a galaxy’s behavior based on them. Satellites are also used to gather information on dark matter. For example, a Hubble Space Telescope image taken in 1997 revealed the light from a distant galaxy cluster being bent by another cluster in the foreground. Based on how the light was bending, scientists estimated that the mass of the foreground cluster was actually 250 times bigger than the mass that was visible, and thus scientists believe that dark matter is responsible for the unexplained mass.

Scientists have made many theories on what dark matter might be. Many think dark matter is actually normal objects like cold gases, or dark galaxies. Others believe that dark matter can be massive halo objects meaning black holes or brown dwarfs, and even piles of strange particles that were created in the very early universe. Understanding dark matter is a key factor to understanding the size, shape, and future of the universe. The amount of dark matter in the universe will determine if it continues to expand, if it expands to one point and then collapses, or if it is flat.

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