Dark matter is a form of matter that doesn’t emit, absorb, or reflect light. It doesn’t interact with electromagnetic forces, which means it doesn’t produce or interact with light. Though invisible directly, its presence is inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation, and the structure of the universe.
1. Gravitational Influence: While we cannot see or detect dark matter directly, we can observe its effects through its gravitational pull on galaxies and galaxy clusters.
2. Galactic Rotation Curves:
Observations of spiral galaxies show that their outskirts rotate at similar speeds as their interiors, suggesting the presence of more mass than is visible.
3. Cosmic Web:
Dark matter is believed to form the “scaffolding” upon which visible matter in the universe is arranged.
Current Theories and Candidates:
1. WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles): These are the leading candidates. They are believed to interact through weak nuclear force and gravity, making them challenging to detect.
2. Axions: Hypothetical elementary particles that are light, electrically neutral, and predicted to be produced in the core of the sun.
3. Sterile Neutrinos: A kind of neutrino that interacts only via gravity.
1. Direct Detection: Detecting dark matter directly is a challenge due to its weak interaction with other particles. Experiments are often conducted underground to shield from cosmic rays and involve highly sensitive detectors.
2. Distinguishing from Dark Energy: While both dark matter and dark energy are mysterious and invisible components of the universe, they serve very different roles. Dark matter clumps and helps structure formation, while dark energy drives the universe’s accelerated expansion.
Understanding dark matter is crucial for cosmology, galaxy formation, and understanding the universe’s overall composition. While ordinary baryonic matter (like stars, planets, and us) comprises only about 5% of the universe’s mass-energy content, dark matter comprises about 27%.
Key Takeaway: Dark matter is a cornerstone of modern cosmology and is fundamental to our understanding of the universe. Despite its elusive nature, ongoing research and experiments aim to shed light on this mysterious form of matter.
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