The eleven most important unsolved inquiries concerning dark matter

Web of Dark Matter

Fritz Zwicky, a Swiss astronomer, noted that galaxies in a far-off cluster were orbiting one another considerably more quickly than they ought to have been given the amount of visible material they contained. He postulated that these galaxies might be gravitationally being pulled by an unknown substance he named dark matter.

Since then, scientists have established that this enigmatic substance exists across the cosmos and is six times more prevalent than the regular matter that gives rise to everyday objects like stars and people. Nevertheless, after discovering dark matter across the universe, most scientists are still baffled by it. The top 11 questions concerning dark matter are listed below.

What is dark matter?

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First, and maybe most puzzlingly, scientists are still unaware of what dark matter actually is. Although detailed observations have not found nearly enough such objects to account for dark matter’s influence, some scientists initially hypothesised that the missing mass in the universe was made up of small faint stars and black holes. However, as physicist Don Lincoln of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermilab previously wrote for Live Science. Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPs, are hypothetical particles that behave somewhat like neutrons but are between 10 and 100 times heavier than protons. They are now the top contender for the mantle of dark matter. However, this speculation has only generated more queries, such…

Can we detect dark matter?

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WIMPs should be invisible and hardly observable everywhere around us if dark matter is formed of them. Why then haven’t we yet discovered any? There is always a minor possibility that a dark-matter particle could collide with a typical particle like a proton or electron as it travels through space, even if they wouldn’t interact with conventional matter very much. Because they are protected from interference radiation that could simulate a collision between dark matter and regular particles, researchers have constructed experiment after experiment to analyse vast quantities of ordinary particles. The issue? None of these detectors has made a reliable discovery despite decades of searching. The Chinese PandaX experiment announced the most recent WIMP nondetection earlier this year. According to physicist Hai-Bo Yu of the University of California, Riverside, it appears that dark-matter particles are either considerably smaller than WIMPs or don’t have the characteristics that would make them simple to research, he said at the time.

Does dark matter consist of more than one particle?

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Protons and electrons, as well as a variety of other less common particles including neutrinos, muons, and pions, make up ordinary matter. Therefore, some scientists have questioned if dark matter, which accounts for 85% of the universe’s mass, might potentially be equally complex. According to Harvard University physicist Andrey Katz, “there is no good reason to suppose that all the dark matter in the cosmos is made out of one sort of particle.” According to Katz, dark protons and dark electrons could unite to form dark atoms, resulting in arrangements that are just as varied and fascinating as those found in the visible universe. Such proposals are increasingly being considered in physics laboratories, but scientists have not yet been able to determine how to confirm or refute them. Quarks and muons are strange, oh my! Dissection of Nature’s Tiniest Particles

Do dark forces exist?

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It is conceivable that dark matter experiences forces similar to those felt by ordinary matter, along with additional dark matter particles. Some scientists have looked for “dark photons,” which are similar to the photons that are exchanged between ordinary particles to produce the electromagnetic force, but which would only be felt by dark matter particles. As previously reported by Live Science, physicists in Italy are preparing to smash a stream of electrons and their antiparticles, known as positrons, into a diamond. The electron-positron pairings may annihilate and produce one of the unusual force-carrying particles if dark photons are real, possibly opening up a completely new area of the universe.

Could dark matter be made of axions?

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Other dark-matter particles are beginning to gain popularity as scientists become weary with WIMPs. Axion, a hypothetical particle that would be incredibly light and possibly only 10 raised to the 31st power less heavy than a proton, is one of the leading alternatives. Several experiments are now looking for axion particles. According to previous reports from Live Science, recent computer models have raised the prospect that these axions could coalesce into star-like objects that could emit detectable radiation that is strikingly similar to the enigmatic phenomenon known as fast-radio bursts.

What are the properties of dark matter?

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It has been hypothesised that dark matter primarily communicates its existence in the cosmos through gravitational interactions with regular stuff. However, scientists have relatively little information to work with when attempting to determine the true nature of dark matter. Some theories predict that dark-matter particles should be their own antiparticles, which would cause two dark-matter particles to collide and destroy. Since 2011, the International Space Station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) experiment has been looking for the telltale signals of nuclear annihilation and has already found hundreds of thousands of occurrences. The signal has not yet assisted scientists in defining precisely what dark matter is, and they are still unsure if they are originating from dark matter.

Does dark matter exist in every galaxy?

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Dark matter is frequently referred to as the organising principle behind the organisation of enormous formations like galaxies and galactic clusters because it massively dominates regular matter. Therefore, it was puzzling when astronomers reported earlier this year that they had discovered a galaxy called NGC 1052-DF2 that appeared to have very little dark matter at all. Dark matter does not appear to be necessary for the formation of galaxies, according to Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University at the time. The visible matter in the galaxy was much fainter and lighter than the initial findings, and more of its mass was in dark matter than was previously thought, according to a separate team’s analysis published over the summer, which claimed van Dokkum’s team had miscalculated the distance to the galaxy.

What’s up with the DAMA/LIBRA results?

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The perplexing outcomes of a European experiment known as DAMA/LIBRA have long been a riddle in particle physics. This detector has been looking for a periodic oscillation in dark matter particles. It is situated in an underground mine beneath the Gran Sasso mountain in Italy. The Earth should experience this oscillation as it travels through the dark matter wind, also known as the galactic stream of dark matter, which surrounds our solar system as it orbits the sun. No other experiment has detected anything like the signal that DAMA/LIBRA has claimed to see since 1997.

Could dark matter have an electrical charge?

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Some physicists have hypothesised that dark matter may be electrically charged as a result of a signal from the beginning of time. 180 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was still young, stars began to produce radiation with a wavelength of 21 centimetres. Cold hydrogen that was there at the moment then absorbed it. This radiation’s characteristic indicated that the hydrogen was significantly colder than expected when it was discovered in February of this year. Julian Muoz, an astronomer at Harvard University, proposed the analogy of ice cubes floating in lemonade to describe how dark matter with an electrical charge would have drawn heat away from the all-pervasive hydrogen. However, the theory has not yet been proven.

Can ordinary particles decay into dark matter?

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Regular matter particles with a finite lifetime are neutrons. A single neutron that has been released from an atom will decay into a proton, an electron, and a neutrino after about 14.5 minutes. But according to research described in a July article in the journal Physical Review Letters, two separate experimental setups offer somewhat different lifetimes for this decay, with the difference between them being roughly 9 seconds. Earlier this year, researchers hypothesised that this anomaly might be explained if, on a 1% of the time, certain neutrons decayed into dark-matter particles. Neutrons were being watched for a potential dark matter signature, but Christopher Morris and his team from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico were unable to find anything. According to the study, they suggested that different degradation scenarios might still be feasible.

Does dark matter actually exist?

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A logical sceptic would question if scientists are approaching the problem correctly given the challenges they have encountered when attempting to identify and explain dark matter. A vociferous minority of scientists has long advocated the possibility that current theories of gravity are simply false and that the fundamental force behaves otherwise on enormous scales. These theories, also referred to as “modified Newtonian dynamics” or MOND models, contend that there is no dark matter and that the extremely high rotational speeds of stars and galaxies are the result of gravity behaving unexpectedly. In an explainer for Live Science, physicist Don Lincoln stated that “dark matter is still an untested model.” However, the critics haven’t succeeded in persuading the wider sector of their theories. And the most recent proof? It also implies the existence of dark matter.

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