Eons After the Big Bang, and 80 Years After It Was Proposed, Dark Matter Takes Form in Andromeda

By Ryan Wallace | Dec 15, 2014 10:18 AM EST

For decades now, researchers have long believed that the ever-elusive dark matter has comprised roughly 80 percent of the entire universe's mass. But in spite of advancing technology, taking astronomers past the moon to far off comets/planets and back, researchers have not yet been able to identify the existence of dark matter in our galaxy or any other, and have not yet been able to isolate the hypothetical invisible particles in Earth labs either. But in what appears to be a strange X-ray emission from nearby galactic clusters, two independent European research teams believe that they may have found the first true dark matter known to man-and it's not too far away either.

Originally suggested as a proposed hypothesis to best explain why outer parts of galaxies rotate faster than their dense cores, dark matter now is considered a significant component of theories on galactic formations and their evolution over the eons. Today, researchers estimate that dark matter may indeed constitute nearly 80 percent of the mass in the Universe, in spite of the fact that it has never been physically found in nature.

But in a recent turn of events, collaborating astrophysicists have been able to isolate the strange particle. Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne Laboratory of Particle Physics and Cosmology and Leiden University, have analyzed distinct emissions emanating from the Andromeda and Perseus galaxy clusters and discovered that unique x-ray signatures may in fact be the elusive dark matter they can't see in the shroud of space.

The x-ray observations were made possible by the European Space Agency's orbiting XMM-Newton telescope, which not only captured the data from the gleaming galaxies, but also helped astronomers remove all interference signals from known sources and particles, leaving only the x-ray/dark matter emissions in the end.

"Above all, the signal's distribution corresponds exactly to what we were expecting with dark matter, that is, concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges," teammember Dr. Oleg Ruchayskiy with the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, says. "If the discovery is confirmed, it will open up new avenues of research in particle physics. Apart from that, it could usher in a new era in astronomy."

And while the jury is still out on whether or not the signature proves dark matter exists, the researchers hope that similar indications within our very own Milky Way galaxy may give them more opportunities to define the strange emissions.

 Further research regarding the discovery will be published in the upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Latest Stories