Sci-tech

Galaxy void of dark matter baffles astronomers

Galaxy void of dark matter baffles astronomers

But it also isn't like known elliptical galaxies, which have a black hole at their center. But there's normally much more dark matter than ordinary stuff in most galaxies, so the authors conclude that, "NGC1052-DF2 is extremely deficient in dark matter, and a good candidate for a "baryonic galaxy" with no dark matter at all". Such large, dim, sparsely populated galaxies, called ultra-diffuse galaxies, are supposed to have around 300 times as much dark matter as they have normal matter, astronomers say.

Van Dokkum and his team spotted the galaxy with the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a custom-built telescope in New Mexico they created to find these ghostly galaxies. It doesn't fit the characteristics of a spiral galaxy, which typically have dense, central regions, spiral arms, and a disk.

The team also calculated the total mass of the galaxy and found the stars account for everything, with little or no room left for dark matter. They followed the motion of 10 star clusters to work out how much mass the galaxy had. "So finding the opposite, namely an absence of dark matter, really came out of the blue for us", he said. "Even if you believe in a modified theory of gravity, you would expect to see something different from what has been observed here".

Galaxies are thought to be composed of visible matter-like stars, planets, and dust-and dark matter, an invisible substance that is believed to make up most of the mass in the universe.

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Is this the end for dark matter?

Unfortunately, dark matter research is facing a hurdle, as the Trump administration's NASA budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 places the funding of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope in question. To look for them he and colleagues built their own makeshift telescope out of 48 telephoto lenses that he first tested by using a toy flashlight to shine a light on a paper clip. It's name is NGC 1052-DF2. "NGC1052-DF2 challenges the standard ideas of how we think galaxies form", said van Dokkum. "It's not something we were looking for or expecting". Three of them appear similar to NGC 1052-DF2. What had seemed to be dim basic galactic structures in Dragonfly's view appeared as point-like sources in the Sloan image. By measuring their motions, the astronomers could calculate the mass of material enclosed inside their orbits. These astronomers say their finding has broad implications for our understanding of the universe. However, even the globular clusters are odd: they are twice as large as typical groups of stars.

In fact, it is so thinly populated that scientists can see right through it to galaxies behind it. And this makes the very existence of NGC1052-DF2 a mystery. It could be that NGC 1052-DF2 was once a placid mass of gas and has been recently perturbed by another unseen galaxy nearby, sparking star formation.

"If there is any dark matter at all, it's very little", said van Dokkum in the press release. The galaxy was found to have very few stars with many of them grouped together in unusually bright clusters. But there is no theory as to why dark matter would be missing in galaxies when it was thought to be their building block.

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"I find this unlikely in all possible contexts", said McGaugh, who is a proponent of a "modified gravity" theory that excludes the existence of dark matter altogether.

The evident concern is exactly how you wind up with a galaxy like NGC1052- DF2. Perhaps it formed from the gas flung out as two other galaxies merged.

Journal Reference: Pieter van Dokkum et al. "There is no way around it".

Verlinde disagrees that the new galaxy puts his ideas or MOND to rest. "I think it's too early to say". Based on the colors of its globular clusters, the galaxy is about 10 billion years old.

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