Technology is changing our understanding of Dark Matter in the Universe

November 30th, 2012 Comments Off on Technology is changing our understanding of Dark Matter in the Universe

Astronomers puzzled? I would be too if I were to observe what they did earlier this year when they spotted an overabundance of dark matter in the heart of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 520. Now with a new group of astronomers viewing the same cluster with a different Hubble camera it completely paints a different picture. It also raises questions of our understanding of the mysterious substance we call dark matter. Because dark matter is not visible, its presence and distribution is found indirectly through its gravitational effects. The gravity from both dark matter and luminous matter warps space, bending and distorting light from galaxies behind it like a giant magnifying glass. Astronomers use this technique to map dark matter in the merging cluster. Using the new Hubble camera astronomers now measured less shear (shear is the warping and stretching of galaxies by gravity of dark matter. More warping indicates the presence of more gravity than is inferred from the presence of luminous matter, therefore requiring the presence of dark matter to explain the observation) in the clusters core. The earlier observation showed 6 to 1 dark matter to normal matter. The new study now shows a ratio of 2.5 to 1! All of this further challenges our theories of how dark matter behaves. It also illustrates the importance of how the evolution of technology is to Astronomy and our understanding of the Universe.

Rick Viegas

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