Astronomy Learning and Research / Dark Matter

Dark Matter

Slide from astro.unl.edu
Slide from astro.unl.edu

Some of my favorite talks at our monthly astronomy club meetings are the ones that really stretch my imagination. The kind that twist my brain into a knot and send me straight to the computer to find out more. This month’s presentation did just that.

One of our favorite presenters, Jim, gave a great talk on dark matter (dark energy to follow sometime next year). Here’s the one thing that I know for sure about dark matter. No one really knows what it is or how to explain it’s existence.  Dark matter and dark energy make up 95% of our universe, leaving only 5% as visible matter.

quantumdiaries.org
quantumdiaries.org

So far one of  the best candidate for dark matter are particles called “weekly interacting massive particles” or WIMPS. On October 30th the Large Underground Xenon dark matter detector (LUX) proudly announced that they found…..nothing. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just one step in finding the elusive particles. While we live in a world of  fast moving technology and instant access to just about everything, it may be hard for us to wrap our brains around the fact that these things just take time.

sci.esa.int
“This all-sky image shows the distribution of dark matter across the entire history of the Universe as seen projected on the sky. It is based on data collected with ESA’s Planck satellite during its first 15.5 months of observations. Dark blue areas represent regions that are denser than the surroundings, and bright areas represent less dense regions. The grey portions of the image correspond to patches of the sky where foreground emission, mainly from the Milky Way but also from nearby galaxies, is too bright, preventing cosmologists from fully exploiting the data in those areas.” From: ESA and the Planck Collaboration

 

We’ve only just begun our search for the answer to dark matter. Maybe WIMPS  are the answer, maybe not I don’t know. I do know that we need to keep looking, keep trying to understand our universe. To me, the more we discover the more amazing our universe becomes and the better we can understand our place in it.

To people like Jim who bring these topics to us, I have only this to say…….more please!

Amy

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