In a result just published, astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope report the discovery of a ring of dark matter in the cluster ZwCl0024+1652. The ring’s discovery is among the strongest evidence yet that dark matter exists.
This Hubble Space Telescope composite image shows a ghostly "ring" of dark matter in the galaxy cluster ZwCl0024+1652. The ring-like structure is evident in the blue map of the cluster's dark matter distribution. The map is superimposed on a Hubble image of the cluster. The ring is one of the strongest pieces of evidence to date for the existence of dark matter, an unknown substance that pervades the universe. The map was derived from Hubble observations of how the gravity of the cluster ZwCl0024+1652 distorts the light of more distant galaxies, an optical illusion called gravitational lensing. Although astronomers cannot see dark matter, they can infer its existence by mapping the distorted shapes of the background galaxies. The mapping also shows how dark matter is distributed in the cluster. Astronomers suggest that the dark-matter ring was produced from a collision between two gigantic clusters. Dark matter makes up the bulk of the universe's material and is believed to make up the underlying structure of the cosmos. The Hubble observations were taken in November 2004 by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Thanks to the exquisite resolution of the ACS, astronomers saw the detailed cobweb tracery of gravitational lensing in the cluster.
"This is the first time we have detected dark matter as having a unique structure that is different from the gas and galaxies in the cluster," said astronomer M. James Jee of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, a member of the team that spotted the dark matter ring.
The ring, which measures 2.6 million light-years across, was found in the cluster ZwCl0024+1652, located 5 billion light-years away from Earth. The team found the ring unexpectedly while they were mapping the distribution of dark matter within the cluster. Although astronomers cannot see dark matter, they can infer its existence in galaxy clusters by observing how its gravity bends the light of more distant background galaxies.
"Although the invisible matter has been found before in other galaxy clusters, it has never been detected to be so largely separated from the hot gas and the galaxies that make up galaxy clusters," Jee continued. “By seeing a dark matter structure that is not traced by galaxies and hot gas, we can study how it behaves differently from normal matter.”
During the team’s dark-matter analysis, they noticed a ripple in the mysterious substance, somewhat like the ripples created in a pond from a stone plopping into the water.
"I was annoyed when I saw the ring because I thought it was an artifact, which would have implied a flaw in our data reduction," Jee explained. "I couldn't believe my result. But the more I tried to remove the ring, the more it showed up. It took more than a year to convince myself that the ring was real. I've looked at a number of clusters and I haven't seen anything like this."
Curious about why the ring was in the cluster and how it had formed, Jee found previous research that suggested the cluster had collided with another cluster 1 to 2 billion years ago. The research, published in 2002 by Oliver Czoske of the Argelander-Institut für Astronomie at Bonn University, was based on spectroscopic observations of the cluster’s three-dimensional structure. The study revealed two distinct groupings of galaxies clusters, indicating a collision between both clusters.
Astronomers have a head-on view of the collision because it occurred fortuitously along Earth’s line of sight. From this perspective, the dark-matter structure looks like a ring.
The team created computer simulations showing what happens when galaxy clusters collide. As the two clusters smash together, the dark matter falls to the centre of the combined cluster and sloshes back out. As the dark matter moves outward, it begins to slow down under the pull of gravity and pile up, like cars bunched up on a highway.
"By studying this collision, we are seeing how dark matter responds to gravity," said team member Holland Ford, also of Johns Hopkins University. "Nature is doing an experiment for us that we can't do in a lab, and it agrees with our theoretical models."
Dark matter makes up most of the Universe’s material. Ordinary matter, which makes up stars and planets, comprises only a few percent of the Universe’s matter.
Tracing dark matter is not an easy task, because it does not shine or reflect light. Astronomers can only detect its influence by how its gravity affects light. To find it, astronomers study how faint light from more distant galaxies is distorted and smeared into arcs and streaks by the gravity of the dark matter in the foreground galaxy cluster, a powerful trick called gravitational lensing. By mapping the distorted light, astronomers can deduce the cluster’s mass and trace how dark matter is distributed in the cluster.
"The collision between the two galaxy clusters created a ripple of dark matter which left distinct footprints in the shapes of the background galaxies," Jee explained. "It's like looking at the pebbles on the bottom of a pond with ripples on the surface. The pebbles' shapes appear to change as the ripples pass over them. So, too, the background galaxies behind the ring show coherent changes in their shapes due to the presence of the dense ring."
Jee and his colleagues used Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys to detect the faint, distorted, faraway galaxies behind the cluster that cannot be resolved with ground-based telescopes. "Hubble's exquisite images and unparalleled sensitivity to faint galaxies make it the only tool for this measurement," said team member Richard White of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, USA.
Previous observations of another cluster, the Bullet Cluster, with Hubble and the Chandra X-ray Observatory presented a sideways view of a similar encounter between two galaxy clusters. In that collision, the dark matter was pulled apart from the hot cluster gas, but the dark matter still followed the distribution of cluster galaxies. ZwCl0024+1652 is the first cluster to show a dark matter distribution that differs significantly from the distribution of both the galaxies and the hot gas.
Lars Christensen | alfa
New NASA study improves search for habitable worlds
20.10.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods
19.10.2017 | California Institute of Technology
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research