Dark matter, the mysterious substance making up a quarter of the mass and energy of the universe, might be made from extremely tiny and light particles, new research suggests. This fuzzy form of dark mattercalled that because these miniscule particles' wavelengths would be smeared out over a colossally huge areawould have altered the course of cosmic history and created long and wispy filaments instead of clumpy galaxies in the early universe, according to simulations.
The findings have observational consequences upcoming telescopes will be able to peer back to this early time period and potentially distinguish between different types of dark matter, allowing physicists to better understand its properties.
Related: 11 Unanswered Questions About Dark Matter
Dark matter is an unknown massive substance found throughout the cosmos. It gives off no light hence the name dark matter but its gravitational effects help bind together galactic clusters and cause stars at the edges of galaxies to spin faster than they otherwise would. Many scientists believe that most dark matter is cold, meaning it moves relatively slowly. But there are entirely different ideas, such as the possibility that it's tiny and fuzzy, meaning it would move quickly because its so light.
"Our simulations show that the first galaxies and stars that form look very different in a universe with fuzzy dark matter than a universe that has cold dark matter," Lachlan Lancaster, an astrophysics graduate student at Princeton University and co-author of a new paper in the journal Physical Review Letters, told Live Science.
Lancaster explained that the most common speculations about dark matter suggest it is composed of weakly interactive massive particles (WIMPs), which would have a few tens or hundreds of times the mass of a proton. Simulations that use this type of dark matter are extremely good at re-creating the large-scale structure of the universe, including vast voids of empty space surrounded by long, spidery filaments of gas and dust, a formation known as the cosmic web. But on smaller scales, such models contain a number of discrepancies from what astronomers observe with their telescopes. In this standard view, dark matter should pile up in the centers of galaxies, but nobody has seen it doing so.
Fuzzy dark matter, in contrast, would be mind-bogglingly light, perhaps a billionth of a billionth of a billionth the mass of an electron, according to a statement from MIT. Quantum mechanics states that particles can also be thought of as waves, with wavelengths inversely proportional to their mass, Lancaster said. So the wavelength of such a light particle would be thousands of light-years long.
Fuzzy dark matter would therefore have a harder time clumping together than cold, WIMP dark matter. In simulations, Lancaster and his co-authors showed that a cold dark-matter universe would have galaxies that formed relatively quickly out of spherical halos.
But fuzzy dark matter would instead coalesce into long, wispy strings of material "more giant filaments than clumpy galaxies," Lancaster said and galaxies would then be born larger and later. Dark matter would also have a harder time piling up in the centers of galaxies, potentially explaining why astronomers don't observe this clumpiness when they look at galaxies.
Instruments like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in Chile and 30-meter-class telescopes being built around the world will soon be able to peer back to some of the universe's earliest days. They are expected to start taking data in the next decade, which means "we'll either start seeing the effects of fuzzy dark matter, or start ruling them out," Lancaster said.
Though other researchers have speculated about fuzzy dark matter, the new simulations do a more careful job of working out its cosmological effects, said Jeremiah Ostriker, an astrophysicist at Columbia University who was not involved in the work.
"This helps outline the details of what the formation of structure would be in this variant theory," OStriker added. "And it's one of the most interesting variant theories around."
Lancaster said his team's future simulations might focus on capturing more details of the fuzzy dark matter's effects, potentially giving astronomers a better idea of what they might expect to see through their telescopes.
Originally published on Live Science.
Need more space? You can get 5 issues of our partner "All About Space" Magazine for $5 for the latest amazing news from the final frontier!
(Image credit: All About Space magazine)
- Vital Clues to Unsolved Mysteries in Astrophysics Including Expansion of the Universe From Colliding Neutron Stars - SciTechDaily - July 11th, 2020
- Global Optical Telescope Market Insights And Extensive Research (2020-2025) : Celestron, Meade, Vixen Optics, TAKAHASHI, ASTRO-PHYSICS, Bushnell,... - July 11th, 2020
- Astrophysicists May Have Discovered the Hidden Source of Mysterious Cosmic Neutrinos Seen on Earth - SciTechDaily - July 11th, 2020
- Space has a diversity problem and big institutions like universities can do something about it - Space.com - July 11th, 2020
- From cosmos to corona: an astrophysicist takes on the pandemic - Times Higher Education (THE) - July 11th, 2020
- New map of the universe unveils a stunning X-ray view of the cosmos - Space.com - July 11th, 2020
- AstroDancing With The Stars | astrobites - Astrobites - July 11th, 2020
- Nyx: Stellar Stream of Stars Discovered in Milky Way That Originated in Another Galaxy - SciTechDaily - July 11th, 2020
- A forty-year-old puzzle about the stars is solved - The Hindu - July 11th, 2020
- Astronomers spot mysterious objects in deep space, say unable to explain what it is - DNA India - July 11th, 2020
- Barron inducted into Spring Valley Elementary's Foundation Hall of Fame - Bureau County Republican - July 11th, 2020
- Virtual Women in STEM event on tap at science center - The Daily Times - July 11th, 2020
- A Giant Galaxy Seen Lighting Up the Universe Shortly After the Big Bang - Universe Today - July 11th, 2020
- Research Fellow, Data Analytics job with QUEENS UNIVERSITY BELFAST | 212927 - Times Higher Education (THE) - July 11th, 2020
- How to see Comet NEOWISE in the night sky this month - Space.com - July 11th, 2020
- Bengaluru scientists find out where the Lithium in your smartphone came from - Deccan Herald - July 11th, 2020
- International Astrophysics Collaboration Discovers Quasar Jets Are Particle Accelerators Thousands of Light-Years Long - SciTechDaily - June 21st, 2020
- 'Moving from astrophysics to supercomputing was a natural transition for me' - Siliconrepublic.com - June 21st, 2020
- Telescope captures breathtaking new X-ray map of the sky - CBS News - June 21st, 2020
- Scientists are searching the universe for signs of alien civilizations: 'Now we know where to look' - USA TODAY - June 21st, 2020
- Space news: Study says there could be 36 intelligent civilisations in galaxy - 7NEWS.com.au - June 21st, 2020
- Help measure who has the darkest skies in Australia - The Canberra Times - June 21st, 2020
- Researchers have detected a regular rhythm of radio waves with unknown origins - Tdnews - June 21st, 2020
- UR #20: Pointing the Green Bank Telescope | astrobites - Astrobites - June 18th, 2020
- #BlackInAstro: Black Representation in Astro/Physics and the Impact of Discrimination - Astrobites - June 18th, 2020
- Cornerstone of Einsteins Theory of Relativity Confirmed by Astrophysicists Using the Pulsar in a Triple Star System - SciTechDaily - June 18th, 2020
- Einstein's core idea about gravity just passed an extreme, whirling test in deep space - Space.com - June 18th, 2020
- Observation of Excess Events in the XENON1T Dark Matter Experiment - Weizmann Institute of Science - June 18th, 2020
- Quasar jets are thousands of light-years long - Cosmos - June 18th, 2020
- The Antares Star is larger than the Sun, reveals a new map of the atmosphere - Republic World - Republic World - June 18th, 2020
- Mystery of a massive neutron star merger in Milky Way explained by new astrophysics theory - Firstpost - May 20th, 2020
- UWMadison astrophysicists donate computing resources to aid COVID-19 research | WIPAC - Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center - University of... - May 20th, 2020
- Astronomers discover a massive rotating disk galaxy in the early universe - UC Santa Cruz - May 20th, 2020
- This Bionic Eye Is Better Than a Real One, Scientists Say - Futurism - May 20th, 2020
- Formation of pair of baby planets around their parent star captured in remarkable first - Firstpost - May 20th, 2020
- Biggest influencers in big data in Q1 2020: The top companies and individuals to follow - Verdict - May 20th, 2020
- Embedded in the community: Outstanding physics student is a third-generation ASU student - ASU Now - May 19th, 2020
- Peter Brancazio, Who Explored the Physics of Sports, Dies at 81 - The New York Times - May 19th, 2020
- Scientists have discovered a star that is almost as old as the Universe, is in its last stages of life - Firstpost - May 19th, 2020
- Russian Astrophysicists Trace Neutrinos Mysterious Ghost Particles From Where No One Had Expected - SciTechDaily - May 19th, 2020
- The Weight of the Universe Physicists Challenge the Standard Model of Cosmology - SciTechDaily - May 19th, 2020
- Hot Super-Earth Discovered Orbiting Ancient Star | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - May 19th, 2020
- Exploring Astronomy Club and enduring COVID-19 The Mesa Press - Mesa Press - May 19th, 2020
- Astronomers Find Earth's Closest Black Hole (So Far) - The Wire - May 11th, 2020
- A long-lost type of dark matter may resolve the biggest disagreement in physics - Times Famous - May 11th, 2020
- Student mothers describe increased stressors as COVID-19 mixes home and work - Daily Northwestern - May 11th, 2020
- Search For Intelligent Alien Life: Galaxies That Are More Likely to Harbor Technologically Advanced Civilizations - SciTechDaily - May 11th, 2020
- UWMadison announces its fourth round of cluster hires - University of Wisconsin-Madison - May 11th, 2020
- A mystery solved? Fast Radio Burst detected within Milky Way - News Info Park - May 11th, 2020
- Here's How to Spot the Starlink Satellite Cluster in the Sky This Month - Our Community Now at Maryland - May 11th, 2020
- Astronomers find closest known black hole to Earth, hints of more - KING5.com - May 6th, 2020
- Lessons from above: U of T astronomers help bring the heavens into homes during COVID-19 - News@UofT - May 6th, 2020
- Super Flower Moon 2020: All you need to know about the last super moon of this year - Jagran English - May 6th, 2020
- The Inconstant Universe Weird Findings Point to a New Physics - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel - April 29th, 2020
- Astronomers Have Watched a Nova Go From Start to Finish For The First Time - ScienceAlert - April 29th, 2020
- Experimenting in the Universe's Laboratory - NC State News - April 29th, 2020
- NSF funds RIT researchers to develop code for astrophysics and gravitational wave calculations - RIT University News Services - April 29th, 2020
- The American Academy of Arts and Sciences Inducts 12 Columbia Faculty Members - Columbia University - April 29th, 2020
- WATCH: Eyewitness News talks with NASA astrophysicist about Hubble Space Telescopes 30th Anniversary - Eyewitness News (WEHT/WTVW) - April 29th, 2020
- Hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbours - UNSW Newsroom - April 29th, 2020
- UAH reports record research results of $109.7 million in 2019: NSF survey - UAH News - April 29th, 2020
- The College honors outstanding academic achievement with 2020 Dean's Medals - ASU Now - April 29th, 2020
- Asteroid set to miss Earth, so there's one less worry - ANU College of Science - April 29th, 2020
- HPU Students, Faculty and Staff Recognized for Research and Innovation - High Point University - April 29th, 2020
- Q&A: Putting the Sky in Everyone's Hands - Physics - April 27th, 2020
- Astronomers Watch a Nova Go From Start to Finish for the First Time - Universe Today - April 27th, 2020
- A Star is Orbiting the Milky Way's Black Hole and Moving Exactly How Einstein Predicted it Should - Universe Today - April 27th, 2020
- New Theory and Space X-Rays - What Does It Entail? - Communal News - April 27th, 2020
- The silliest string-theory alternative yet draws inspiration from video games - The Next Web - April 27th, 2020
- This planetary system's perfect rhythm tells us a lot about how it came to be - The Next Web - April 27th, 2020
- Astronomers Find a Six-Planet System Which Orbit in Lockstep With Each Other - Universe Today - April 27th, 2020
- 5 things to know about Colts new RB Jonathan Taylor - Colts Wire - April 27th, 2020
- This planet is so scorching that metals actually vaporize into the atmosphere - SYFY WIRE - April 27th, 2020
- Infinite Visions Were Hiding in the First Black Hole Images Rings - The New York Times - March 31st, 2020
- How Researchers Produce Sharp Images of a Black Hole - Universe Today - March 31st, 2020
- New mission would provide a road map in the search for alien atmospheres - CU Boulder Today - March 31st, 2020
- Pollution down, sky clearer: Amateur astronomers have a good time - Hindustan Times - March 31st, 2020
- April's full moon is a supermoon, and rises on the 7th - Brainerd Dispatch - March 31st, 2020
- Mystery of Supermassive Black Holes Shortly After the Big Bang Explanation Discovered - SciTechDaily - March 31st, 2020
- Educational Shows For Kids to Stream From Home - Den of Geek UK - March 31st, 2020