Dec 13, 2014 02:01 PM EST
While the ever elusive "dark matter" was first proposed by Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky in the early 1930s, a team of European scientists this week believe that they may have detected the first ever evidence of dark matter in mysterious photo emissions of the X-ray spectra, emitting from the Andromeda galaxy, the Draco dwarf galaxy, and other galactic clusters far outside our own solar system.
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. In fact, to date, all attempts thus far to detect dark matter in labs on Earth have failed, and researchers are continuing to look out to space for evidence of their existence.
The research teams were from two separate organizations in Europe, though both have recently announced the detection of the strange X-ray emissions in nearby galaxies including Andromeda. Lead researcher Dr. Alexey Boyarsky of Leiden University in the Netherlands, led a team to discover the emissions by analyzing X-ray signals collected for the Draco dwarf galaxy, the Perseus galaxy cluster, and the Andromeda galaxy (M31).
"After having collected thousands of signals from the ESA's XMM-Newton telescope and eliminated all those coming from known particles and atoms, we detected an anomaly that caught our attention," Boyarsky says.
Though the data is far from definitive, as it is suggested that the signal is an atypical photon emission created when there is the destruction of a hypothetical particle theorized to create such emissions, such as "sterile neutrinos". What researchers do know, however, is that the signal observed is not something they have seen before, and cannot be traced nor attributed to any form of matter in the universe known to man.
"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."
As the discovery was made by two separate research teams working in different areas of astronomy, researchers are hopeful that the emissions may indicate an entirely new branch of astronomy for studying, which will in turn change how researchers and astronomers worldwide view the surrounding universe.
"Confirmation of this discovery may lead to construction of new telescopes specially designed for studying the signals from dark matter particles" Dr. Boyarsky says. "We will know where to look in order to trace dark structures in space and will be able to reconstruct how the Universe has formed."
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