Astronomers baffled by distant galaxy void of dark matter

Astronomers baffled by distant galaxy void of dark matter

Astronomers baffled by distant galaxy void of dark matter

"To me, there are many ways that you could form a galaxy like this - for example, in a collision of other galaxies". Although it calls into question some of what we know about galaxies and dark matter, this new discovery could end up strengthening the case for dark matter in the end.

We don't really know what dark matter is and why it exists... or why it doesn't. That stellar sparseness means it doesn't look much like a typical spiral galaxy, but rather a loosely connected, ghostly blob of star-pocked gas and dust. Or, a cataclysmic event within DF2 such as an eruption of star formation could have cleared the galaxy of all its gas and dark matter.

They discovered the lack of dark matter in the galaxy from spectral data that showed that objects in the system were moving slower than expected, meaning the system didn't have a lot of mass.

"You see something like this, and you do sort of scratch your head and you think there's something fundamentally wrong in our picture", Abraham said. But finding a galaxy that's more or less devoid of dark matter certainly suggests a few tantalising things.

Van Dokkum and his team first spotted NGC1052-DF2 with the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a custom-built telescope in New Mexico that they created to find these ghostly galaxies.

Theories that challenge dark matter's existence will need to explain away the new claim about galaxy NGC 1052-DF2 to survive. "This whole story is one of dark matter being the scaffolding on which every galaxy is built", said van Dokkum. "It's exactly the opposite of what we expected. At all. But you go in the directions the data takes you, even if it's in contradiction to what you've found before". The researchers figured out NGC 1052-DF2's spin speed by looking at the movement of 10 objects in the region of the galaxy.

To their surprise, they found it had none. Dragonfly saw it as a scattered things with some frameworks in it; Sloan imaged it as a collection of unique things.

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The scientists then used larger telescopes - including the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Hubble Space Telescope - to do followup observations.

The point sources proved to be 10 globular clusters-compact and spherical groupings of stars, orbiting the galaxy's core. Sure, MOND doesn't easily explain a galaxy behaving as if there is no missing mass. All the clusters' movements could be explained exclusively by the mass of the galaxy's observed stars. Roberto Abraham, co-author of the paper and professor at the University of Toronto's department of astronomy and astrophysics, said. "The alternate possibility is that the globular clusters, or the objects they think are globular clusters, aren't really measuring the total mass in the way they think", he says. The difference between this number and the apparent mass of visible stars helps scientists estimate how much galactic mass is dark. Is DF2 a mutant due to its proximity to a much more dominant galaxy, NGC 1042? It could be that NGC1052-DF2 was once a placid mass of gas and has been recently perturbed by another unseen galaxy nearby, sparking star formation. The leading dark matter theory predicts that this "sea" of particles moves around a galaxy in deep, plunging orbits like comets around the sun.

Lying some 63 million light-years from the Milky Way, the elliptical galaxy NGC1052-DF2 seems to be completely made up of normal matter, defying all expectations. But it also isn't like known elliptical galaxies, which have a black hole at their center.

"This has been a common experience of mine: When I find something that doesn't make sense in MOND, it usually doesn't make sense in dark matter, either", he wrote. Not this one.but that just makes it more exciting! So when researchers uncovered a galaxy, known as NGC1052-DF2, that is nearly completely devoid of the stuff, they were shocked. Because there's some regular issue right here, any kind of variation of customized gravity would certainly have that issue generate dark-matter-like impacts. "Also, Gemini's confirmation that NGC1052-DF2 is not now interacting with another galaxy will help us answer questions about the conditions surrounding its birth".

Journal Reference: Pieter van Dokkum et al. "It can be in a galaxy or not in a galaxy, but it is not a field, or some alternative thing that manifests itself rather than being a substance".

But that doesn't mean the results in this paper provide flawless support for dark matter theories either. These collaborations, such as LUX-ZEPLIN experiment in South Dakota, the XENON1T experiment in Italy, and the ADMX experiment in Washington, are trying to figure out what dark matter actually is made of, and they look to astronomical observations to guide their detector designs. Future observatories under construction, such as the European Extremely Large Telescope in Chile's Atacama Desert, or NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, should be able to take such measurements.

"NGC1052-DF2 is an oddity, even among this unusual class of galaxy", said Shany Danieli, a Yale University graduate student on the team. "There's no question it's interesting".

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