New Hubble images show clusters illuminating dark matter
According to scientists, the inner light of the clusters of galaxies, recorded in the photos, helps to show where dark matter is distributed.
Astronomers have used data from the Frontier Fields program of the NASA Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency (ESA) to detect dark matter in clusters of galaxies and understand their distribution. The results were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“We have found a way to ‘see’ dark matter,” explained Mireia Montes of the University of New South Wales in Australia.
“We found that very weak light in clusters of galaxies, the inner light, maps how dark matter is distributed.”
The inner light of the clusters is a by-product of the interactions between galaxies. In them, the stars are removed from their galaxies and float freely within the cluster.
And they end up going where most of the mass of the cluster, especially the dark matter, resides.
“These stars have a similar distribution to dark matter,” Montes said.
The new research has shown that the inner light is aligned with dark matter, tracing its distribution more accurately than any other method already used.
The results of the study introduce the possibility of exploring the whole nature of dark matter.
“If dark matter is self-interacting, we could detect this as deviations in the distribution of dark matter compared to very weak star brightness,” says Ignacio Trujillo of the Canarian Astrophysics Institute in Spain.
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What is known about dark matter is that it seems to interact gravitationally with regular matter.
According to the researchers, finding out that if it really self-interacts could expand scientific analysis.
For now, Montes and Trujillo plan to evaluate more clusters to see if the method they used remains correct.
“There are interesting possibilities that we should be able to investigate in the next few years,” said the astronomer.