[Darth Vader Voice] ’’ DARK MATTER, the greatest weapon to the master of all evil!‘’ Or, it might just be called that because it does not react with light at all. Yup, it neither reflects light, absorbs light nor reacts in any way with the electromagnetic spectrum. It is weakly named, but it is responsible for a lot of mysteries! What is dark matter? What can it tell us about our universe? Is it actual matter? Is it …gulp…an illusion?
Dark energy makes up 69% of our universe and dark matter makes up 26%. And dramatically, you, me, this magazine, your school, Earth, the Sun, the solar system, all the stars and star systems in the Milky Way, the Milky Way [breathes] AND ALL THE GALAXIES IN THE UNIVERSE…make up only a mere 5% called Baryonic matter.
Well, how do we know dark matter is there? It doesn’t even react with light!
Let’s look at wind, for example. We can’t actually see the wind blowing but we can see its effect on other objects. It was something that filled in the emptiness. In 1933, a scientist named Fritz Zwicky discovered a group of galaxies named the Coma Cluster. You see, galaxies are like Jack and Rose -they will never let go, and exist together in groups called clusters. When galaxies orbit each other they are kind of playing a game of galactic twister. The faster they go, the stronger the force needed to hold them together. You guessed it, gravity. From high school we know that more gravity comes from adding more mass. To find the amount of force needed, we….
A) Calculate mass of galaxy by looking at its brightness.
B) Calculate mass of galaxies based on how fast they orbit each other.
C) Say: “Errrrr….missing mass…where you izzz?”
But I’m confuzzled. How can I see dark matter?
Picture two galaxies moving around each other. Zwicky saw that galaxies moving faster than the gravity of the mass he could see manages to hold them together. Without this extra mass they would [sniff] let go. (cue Titanic song). That’s when he knew there was something he couldn’t see and he called it, [pause for drum roll] DARK MATTER! Sigh, if only that board Rose was on was made of dark matter.
Dark matter does not stop there love. If you are looking at a star, the light from that star seems to travel straight at you. But put a massive or giant object like me or… Nicki Minaj…or more realistically, put a galaxy in between, or a lot of matter, and you would see that light bends around it before reaching you, like if there was a lens within that massive object. Since physicists are totes creative, they called it gravitational lensing. Clap. Clap. Clap.
So we know it’s there, it exists. But what is it? There is a chance it could be MACHOs.
No…not NACHOS (although that would be yummy right now)…MACHOs. Massive Compact Halo Objects. These are things like black holes. Things that have low luminosity but are small and dense. So could this dark matter just be dark dust and gas. Well actually that’s all Baryonic matter. SO WHAT IS?
Well the best idea so far is WIMPs. Yes we have our MACHOs and our WIMPs. I see what you did there physics. I see what you did there. Looks like space has its own version of the Karate Kid.
Anyways, WIMPs are Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, and the best thing about them is that they can’t react with light, hence the ‘weakly interacting’ part. Detectors have been set up underground to see if they can be found.
Another thought scientists had is trying to detect dark radiation from colliding dark matter particles; but that wasn’t successful, hinting that it’s probably scarce in our part of the universe. Or an illusion.
Buuuuuuuut…in March 2015, a smartie thought of an idea that will be tested by CERN’s LHC, the large hadron collider, the largest machine in the world. CERN is the European Center for Nuclear Research, in Swisscheeseland (AKA Switzerland)! This machine discovered the God particle – the Higgs Boson! According to this the Higgs boson can break down into a photon a light particle and…… a dark matter particle.
Right now, though we are only left with the fact that it exists. Anyways, I hope this sparked your brains and was a good intro to Sci-No-Fi. If you want to leave me any ideas for further science articles, (no matter what they are) leave me a comment at one of my pics on Instagram @RABpoetry. Yeah, I am a poet too.