May 27, 2024

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Our Galaxy’s Spooky Secret: Less Dark Matter Than We Thought?

2 min read
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, might hold less dark matter than we thought! A new study suggests stars at the edge move slower than expected, hinting at a lighter core. This could upend our understanding of dark matter and the universe's composition. Buckle up for a cosmic whodunit!
Our Galaxy

Our Galaxy's Spooky Secret: Less Dark Matter Than We Thought?

Have you ever gazed up at the Milky Way on a clear night, mesmerized by its swirling arms and countless stars? It’s a breathtaking sight, and it makes you wonder what else is out there in the vastness of space. Well, astronomers have been pondering that same question for centuries, and they’re starting to unravel some of the Milky Way’s deepest secrets.

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding our galaxy is dark matter. This invisible substance makes up about 85% of the matter in the universe, but we can’t see it or interact with it directly. We only know it’s there because of its gravitational effects on visible matter, like stars and gas.

Slower Stars at the Milky Way’s Edge

Recently, a team of scientists from MIT made a surprising discovery about dark matter in the Milky Way. They studied the motions of stars throughout the galaxy and found that stars at the edge are moving much slower than expected. This is based on data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, which has been mapping the positions and motions of billions of stars.

“The slower speeds of stars at the Milky Way’s edge suggest that the gravitational core of our galaxy may be lighter than previously thought,” says Annastasia Necib, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT and lead author of the study. “This could mean that there is less dark matter in the core than we previously estimated.”

Implications for Dark Matter

This finding has some major implications for our understanding of dark matter. If there’s less dark matter in the Milky Way’s core, it could mean that dark matter is distributed more evenly throughout the galaxy than we thought. Or it could mean that our current theories about dark matter are wrong.

“This result is in tension with other measurements of dark matter,” says Necib. “Really understanding this result will have deep repercussions. It might lead to more hidden masses just beyond the edge of the galactic disk, or a reconsideration of the state of equilibrium of our galaxy.”

Future Research

This is just the latest twist in the ongoing saga of dark matter. Scientists are still trying to figure out what dark matter is made of and how it interacts with normal matter. The MIT study is just one piece of the puzzle, but it’s an important one. By studying the motions of stars in the Milky Way, we can learn more about the distribution of dark matter and gain a better understanding of our place in the universe.

So, the next time you look up at the Milky Way, remember that there’s more to it than meets the eye. This swirling sea of stars is full of mysteries, and we’re only just beginning to unravel them.

I hope this article was informative and engaging. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

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