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Astronomers could have discovered how dark matter interacts with galaxies

20 Dec 2017, 15:46 UTC
Astronomers could have discovered how dark matter interacts with galaxies X-ray: NASA/CXO/Oxford Univ./J. Conlon./NRAO/AUI/NSF/Univ. of Montreal/Gendron-Marsolais/NASA/ESA/IoA/A. Fabian
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The unusual emission line at 3.5 keV could be explained by dark matter. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXO/Oxford Univ./J. Conlon./NRAO/AUI/NSF/Univ. of Montreal/Gendron-Marsolais/NASA/ESA/IoA/A. Fabian
A new study of a cluster of galaxies has offered astronomers a chance to understand the elusive dark matter. X-ray observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton and Hitomi, a Japanese-led X-ray telescope, have meant that astronomers have had to come up with an innovative interpretation of the data. This could tell us something about the strange unseen material that makes up 85 percent of all matter in the universe.
The premise of this work began in 2014, when a team of astronomers led by Esra Bulbul of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, discovered a noticeable spike in intensity at a very specific energy level. While studying the hot gas within the Perseus galaxy cluster, the Chandra and XMM-Newton observatories revealed an unexpected spike, or emission line, corresponding to an energy of 3.5 kiloelectron volts (keV). This wavelength is very difficult to explain, as it cannot be described by previously observed – or even predicted – astronomical objects. For this reason, a dark matter theory was suggested in order to explain it. Bulbul and her ...

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