Scientists Claim That Newborn Stars Can Heat Dark Matter And Move It Around Their Host Galaxies

Tuesday, 08 January 2019 - 12:51PM
Astrophysics
Space
Tuesday, 08 January 2019 - 12:51PM
Scientists Claim That Newborn Stars Can Heat Dark Matter And Move It Around Their Host Galaxies
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Maxwell Hamilton CC BY 2.0
On the heels of the recent claim that dark matter is really a kind of "dark fluid," a team of researchers published a new study that describes how dark matter behaves in dwarf galaxies, which may give scientists new insight into what dark matter is really made of. The paper describes a new phenomenon called "dark matter heating," and its authors think it may be the "smoking gun" that leads to the discovery of a dark matter particle.

Dwarf galaxies have been a keen interest of scientists looking to study dark matter, primarily because they appear to have higher densities of dark matter than larger galaxies (like our Milky Way). This makes dwarf galaxies excellent laboratories for researchers studying dark matter's behavior. So far, scientists have discovered that when stars form near the centers of dwarf galaxies, their solar wind pushes out the gas and dust, causing there to be less gravitational pull in that region of the galaxy.

According to EarthSky, pushing all that matter away means that "the galaxy's center has less mass, which affects how much gravity is felt by the remaining dark matter. With less gravitational attraction, the dark matter gains energy and migrates away from the center, an effect called dark matter heating."

The correlation between star formation, gravity, and the presence of dark matter in dwarf galaxies may give a window into what dark matter is made of and what forces can act on it. Currently, dark matter is only detectable through its gravitational influence, since it doesn't appear to interact with light the way most matter does (hence its name). According to Matthew Walker, a co-author on the new paper: "This study may be the 'smoking gun' evidence that takes us a step closer to understanding what dark matter is. Our finding that it can be heated up and moved around helps to motivate searches for a dark matter particle."

Image: Maxwell Hamilton CC BY 2.0
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