Eight New Quadruple Lenses Aren’t Just Gorgeous, They Reveal Dark Matter’s Temperature
“Ever since astronomers first realized that the Universe required the existence of dark matter to explain the cosmos that we see, we’ve sought to understand its nature. While direct detection efforts have still failed to bear fruit, indirect detection through astronomical observations not only reveal the presence of dark matter, but this novel method of using quadruply lensed quasar systems has given us some very strong, meaningful constraints on just how cold dark matter needs to be.
Dark matter that’s too hot or energetic cannot form structures below a certain scale, and the observations of these ultra-distant, quadruple-lens systems show us that dark matter must form clumps on very small scales after all, consistent with them being born as arbitrarily cold as we can imagine. Dark matter’s not hot, nor can it even be very warm. As more of these systems come in and our instruments go beyond what even Hubble’s capabilities are, we might even discover what cosmologists have long suspected: dark matter must not only be cold today, but it must have been born cold.”
We might not yet know the nature of dark matter, as we’ve never been able to detect the particle responsible for it directly. But we know it clumps and gravitates together, with the exact way it would do so dependent on the amount of kinetic energy it had when it was born relative to its mass. Dark matter could have been extremely hot, such as a scenario where it was made from neutrinos, cold, such as from a very heavy WIMP particle (or a born-super-cold axion), or anywhere in between.
Thanks to a new technique involving quadruple-lens systems, we’ve just learned how cold dark matter needs to be. Get the (beautiful) story today!
New Method For Tracing Dark Matter Reveals Its Location, Abundance As Never Before
“By measuring the distorted light from distant galaxies behind a galaxy cluster, scientists can reconstruct the total cluster mass. In every galaxy cluster, the majority of the mass is outside of the galaxies: there is a huge dark matter halo. The intracluster gas, however, may be distributed differently, as normal matter can collide and heat up, emitting X-rays. But individual stars, ejected from galaxies, should trace the same path as the dark matter. In a cosmic first, scientists measured this intracluster light, and found it traces out the dark matter perfectly.”
If you want to know where the dark matter is located in the Universe, you had to infer its presence and abundance by measuring the gravitational effects it had on space. When it comes to large-scale structures, like galaxy clusters, this often involved exceedingly difficult reconstructions involving gravitational lensing, and relied on serendipitous alignments of observable background structures. But a new study has concocted an alternative method that works extremely well: just measure the intracluster light from stars that have been ejected from the component galaxies.
Well, with the first two clusters down, we have a verdict: it’s the best dark matter-tracer of all time. Come get the remarkable story today!
Hubble Views The Final Frontier For Dark Matter
“This phenomenon of gravitational lensing stretches galaxies into streaks and arcs, magnifying them, and creating multiple images.
It also enables us to reconstruct the mass distribution of the cluster, revealing that it’s mostly due to dark matter.”
When you look out at the distant Universe, you can see all sorts of things: stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, going as far back into the distant past as our telescopes can image. But where you have the greatest concentrations of mass, an extreme phenomenon emerges: that of gravitational lensing. Any foreground objects lying behind that mass will have their light stretched, magnified and distorted by the intervening matter. Recently, as part of the Hubble Frontier Fields program, the telescope followed-up on galaxy cluster Abell 370, and revealed the most spectacular gravitational lensing signal ever seen in a galaxy cluster. Most importantly, it provides some very strong evidence not only for dark matter’s existence, but for its presence distinct from any galaxies at all.
Come get the full story in images, videos, and no more than 200 words on this edition of Mostly Mute Monday!