The Search for Dark Matter: Largest Survey Ever

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Densest regions of Dark Matter host massive galaxy clusters. Image credit: Van Waerbeke, Heymans, and CFHTLens collaboration.

Dark Matter Questions and Future Surveys

What is dark matter made of? Physicists have a better understanding of what it isn’t made of than what it is. Based on the big bang theory, they are generally convinced the preponderance of dark matter is not some form of ordinary matter that no longer gives off EM radiation we can detect. In other words, dark matter is not made of quarks and leptons (the fundamental particles which make up atoms and molecules as we know them). Dark matter is suspected to be some new exotic form of matter which reacts very weakly with atoms and light — if it reacts at all.

Theoretical physicists have proposed all kinds of possibilities for this exotic dark matter, including hypothetical particles with strange names like sterile neutrinos, axions, and neutralinos. But, so far, none have been detected.

The hope is — along with the development of new physics — the better scientists understand the distribution and configuration of dark matter, the more likely they are to determine what it is. With this in mind, astronomers plan to use analysis techniques developed on the CFHT Lensing Survey on data collected by the Very Large Telescope’s (VLT) Survey Telescope in Chile.

“Over the next three years we will image more than 10 times the area mapped by CFHT,”  Professor Koen Kuijken from Leiden University told CFHT news, “bringing us ever closer to our goal of understanding the mysterious dark side of the Universe.”

Resources:

Canada France Hawaii Telescope News. Astronomers Reach New Frontiers of Dark Matter. Accessed Jan. 15, 2012.

Center for the History of Physics, American Institute of Physics. Ideas of Cosmology. Accessed Jan. 15, 2012.  

Major, J. Astronomers Witness a Web of Dark Matter. Universe Today. Accessed  Jan. 15, 2012. 

Greene, B. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. (2004)Knopf.

Johnson, H. Three New Maps Shine Light on Dark Matter. Physicsworld. Accessed Jan. 15, 2012. 

Moskowitz, C. Biggest Map Yet of Universe’s Invisible Dark Matter Unveiled.  Scientific American News. Accessed Jan. 15, 2012.

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