Evidence of Dark Matter Interacting With Itself in El Gordo Merger

This image is from a computer simulation of the distribution of matter in the universe. Orange regions host galaxies; blue structures are gas and dark matter. We can map dark matter, but we don't know what it is. Image Credit: TNG Collaboration

The Standard Model of particle physics does a good job of explaining the interactions between matter’s basic building blocks. But it’s not perfect. It struggles to explain dark matter. Dark matter makes up most of the matter in the Universe, yet we don’t know what it is.

The Standard Model says that whatever dark matter is, it can’t interact with itself. New research may have turned that on its head.

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Powerful Jets From a Black Hole are Spawning Star Clusters

A composite image of cluster of galaxies called SDSS J1531+3414 in X-ray, optical, and radio light. The overall scene resembles a colorful display of lights as if viewed through a wet, glass window. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/O. Omoruyi et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/G. Tremblay et al.; Radio: ASTRON/LOFAR; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/N. Wolk.

Supermassive black holes are messy feeders, and when they’re gorging on too much material, they can hurl high-energy jets into the surrounding Universe. Astronomers have found one of the most powerful eruptions ever seen, emanating from a black hole 3.8 billion light-years away. The powerful jets are blowing out cavities in intergalactic space and triggering the formation of a huge chain of star clusters.

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“Seeing” the Dark Matter Web That Surrounds the Coma Cluster

Artist's impression of Dark matter in the Coma Cluster region. Credit: HyeongHan et al.

According to our predominant cosmological models, Dark Matter makes up the majority of mass in the Universe (roughly 85%). While it is not detectable in visible light, its influence can be seen based on how it causes matter to form large-scale structures in our Universe. Based on ongoing observations, astronomers have determined that Dark Matter structures are filamentary, consisting of long, thin strands. For the first time, using the Subaru Telescope, a team of astronomers directly detected Dark Matter filaments in a massive galaxy cluster, providing new evidence to test theories about the evolution of the Universe.

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This Distant Galaxy Cluster is Totally Relaxed, Unharassed for a Billion Years

Astronomers have discovered a galaxy cluster with an important characteristic; it's “relaxed, meaning that it shows no signs of having been disrupted by violent collisions with other clusters of galaxies. This composite image contains X-rays from Chandra (blue), which helped identify SPT2215 along with other telescopes, and data from Hubble (cyan and orange). Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/M. Calzadilla; UV/Optical/Near-IR/IR: NASA/STScI/HST; Image processing: N. Wolk

In the span of a human lifetime, much of the Universe seems unchanging. But that’s an illusion; things are always changing, and that fact can make galaxies and the clusters they reside in very unruly places due to mergers and collisions.

However, some galaxy clusters seem much calmer than others.

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Wandering Stars Have Been Adrift Between Galaxies for Billions of Years

Hubble Space Telescope images of two massive clusters of galaxies named MOO J1014+0038 (left panel) and SPT-CL J2106-5844 (right panel).. Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/James Jee (Yonsei University)/Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

In the giant galaxy clusters in the Universe, which can consist of hundreds or thousands of galaxies, there are countless “rogue” stars wandering between them. These stars are not gravitationally bound to any individual galaxy but to the halo of galaxy clusters themselves and are only discernible by the diffuse light they emit – “Ghost Light” or “Intracluster light” (ICL). For astronomers, the explanation for how these stars became so scattered throughout their galaxy clusters has always been an unresolved question.

There are several theories, including the possibility that the stars were pulled from their galaxies, ejected in the course of galactic mergers, or were part of their cluster since its early formation billions of years ago. Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a team from Yonsei University, Seoul, and the University of California, Davis, conducted an infrared survey of distant galaxy clusters. Their observations suggest that these wandering stars have been adrift for billions of years and were not stripped from their respective galaxies.

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Webb Stares Deeply Into the Universe, Showing How Galaxies Assemble

This image represents a portion of the full PEARLS field, which will be about four times larger. Thousands of galaxies over an enormous range in distance and time are seen in exquisite detail, many for the first time. Image Credit: SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Rolf A. Jansen (ASU), Jake Summers (ASU), Rosalia O'Brien (ASU), Rogier Windhorst (ASU), Aaron Robotham (UWA), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Christopher Willmer (University of Arizona), JWST PEARLS Team IMAGE PROCESSING: Rolf A. Jansen (ASU), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

The James Webb Space Telescope is delivering a deluge of images and data to eager scientists and other hungry-minded people. So far, the telescope has shown us the iconic Pillars of Creation like we’ve never seen them before, the details of very young stars as they grow inside their dense cloaks of gas, and a Deep Field that’s taken over from the Hubble’s ground-breaking Deep Field and Ultra Deep Field images. And it’s only getting started.

True to its main science objectives, the JWST has peered back in time to the Universe’s earliest galaxies looking for clues to how they assemble and evolve.

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A Black Hole has been Burping for 100 Million Years

Artist view of an active supermassive black hole. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Black holes are gluttonous behemoths that lurk in the center of galaxies. Almost everybody knows that nothing can escape them, not even light. So when anything made of simple matter gets too close, whether a planet, a star or a gas cloud, it’s doomed.

But the black hole doesn’t eat it at once. It plays with its food like a fussy kid. Sometimes, it spews out light.

When the black hole is not only at the center of a galaxy but the center of a cluster of galaxies, these burps and jets carve massive cavities out of the hot gas at the center of the cluster called radio bubbles.

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Lasers Recreate the Conditions Inside Galaxy Clusters

Galaxies don’t exist in a vacuum. Ok, maybe they do (mostly, since even interstellar space has some matter in it). But galaxies aren’t normally solitary objects. Multiple galaxies interacting gravitationally can form clusters. These clusters can interact with each other, forming superclusters. Our own galaxy is part of a group of galaxies called the Local Group. This Local Group is part of the Virgo Supercluster, which is in turn a part of a group of superclusters called the Laniakea Supercluster.

Mixed in with all of these galaxies is a lot of heat, with extremely high temperatures comparable to the core of our Sun, around 10 million Kelvin (27 million degrees Fahrenheit). This temperature is so hot that hydrogen atoms cannot exist, and instead of gas a plasma forms of protons and electrons. This is a problem for physicists though, who say it shouldn’t be that hot.

As Gianluca Gregori, a professor of physics at University of Oxford and one author of a new paper detailing an experiment to recreate the conditions inside a galaxy cluster, puts it: “The reason why the gas inside the galaxy cluster should have cooled down is simply due to the fact that the cluster has existed for a very long time (for a time which is comparable to the age of the Universe). So, if we assume thermal conduction works in the normal way, we would have expected the initial hot core to have dissipated its heat by now. But observations shows it has not.”

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Astronomers see an Enormous Shockwave, 60 Times Bigger Than the Milky Way

Astronomers have a thing for big explosions and collisions, and it always seems like they are trying to one-up themselves in finding a bigger, brighter one.  There’s a new entrant to that category – an event so big it created a burst of particles over 1 billion years ago that is still visible today and is 60 times bigger than the entire Milky Way.

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By Measuring Light From Individual Stars Between Galaxy Clusters, Astronomers Find Clues About Dark Matter

dark matter shown in blue
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster MACS J0416. This is one of six clusters that was studied by the Hubble Frontier Fields programme, which yielded the deepest images of gravitational lensing ever made. Scientists used intracluster light (visible in blue) to study the distribution of dark matter within the cluster.

Astronomers have been able to measure an extremely faint glow of light within galaxy clusters, and that measurement came with a surprise: it traced the amount of invisible dark matter, something that scientists have been trying to pin down for decades.

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