Scientists Gain New Insight into Dark Matter

Posted April 4th, 2012 at 10:30 pm (UTC-4)

While they still don’t know what dark matter is, scientists using data collected by NASA, now know a little more about what it’s not.

After analyzing two years’ worth of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, they’ve eliminated four possible types of particles thought to make up the mysterious substance.

Experts theorize about 80 percent of matter in the universe can’t be seen by telescopes.

But they know something is there because of its gravitational influence over the orbital speeds of stars around galaxies and how clusters of galaxies move within the universe.

This so-called “dark matter” forms most of the universe, yet it neither gives off nor absorbs light or any other electromagnetic radiation.

This dwarf spheroidal galaxy in the constellation Fornax is a satellite of our Milky Way and is one of 10 used in Fermi's dark matter search. (Photo: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2)

This dwarf spheroidal galaxy in the constellation Fornax is a satellite of our Milky Way and is one of 10 used in Fermi's dark matter search. (Photo: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2)

Scientists think the key to its identity will be the discovery of new types of subatomic particles that are quite different from those that make up the atoms of visible and known matter that surrounds us.

Among the new particles scientists have favored to form dark matter are those called “Weakly Interacting Massive Particles” or WIMPS.  Scientists think some of these particles are destroyed when pairs of them interact with each other, producing gamma rays – the most energetic form of light – at the same time.

With this in mind, the team set out to see if the gamma ray signals from 10 dwarf galaxies are consistent with the high-energy radiation produced from the destruction of four different types of WIMP particles, thought to be associated with dark matter.

Rather than analyzing each of the galaxies separately, the scientists developed a statistical technique that allowed them to evaluate all of the galaxies at once.

The analysis showed none of the gamma ray signals they studied are consistent with those that could be produced by these four classes of WIMP particles and therefore could not be dark matter.

So, as scientists continue their investigation into dark matter, at least they now have four classes of WIMP particles that have been eliminated from consideration.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

6 responses to “Scientists Gain New Insight into Dark Matter”

  1. Dr. Jamey Lynne Bishop says:

    Read my book. So-called “Dark Matter” is not matter at all but simply the pressure waves and eddys in the 4-dimensional expanding bubble of our Universe. For that matter, “Dark Energy” is just a result of our 3-dimensional perception of our place on the surface of that expanding 4-dimensional bubble.

  2. Timur Tyncherov says:

    Reverend Dr. Bishop,
    Why exactly that bubble should be 4-dimensional, not 5- or 6- or whatsoever-? How is four better than three? If a scientist has a beautiful insight (and your insight is beautiful indeed, and you are just too right to want to share it with us), but indemonstrable as yet, maybe it’s better for them to convey it in the form of quatrain, like Nostradamus did.

  3. Julian of York says:

    With a view to an extra-physical, or non three dimensional, answer for “dark matter”, why not an alternate reality Representitive of the Spiritual Realm?? I mean, a staggeringly large ,undetectable, non-emitting Spirit would take just such a form,hmmm? And, if such a Spirit were present, He would be that Being we on earth know as “GOD”.
    How can that be?
    This Being is said to have created all things.”In the beginning,God created the heavens and the earth.”The Bible, Genesis 1:1
    The Bible claims that this Person is,in fact,Spirit.
    “”God is a Spirit”. The Bible, John chapter one.
    Now, without belaboring the point, we have a conundrum. In fact a riddle that might be worded:
    The question should be “WHO” not “WHAT”.
    I have always wondered why the Bible refers to God as dwelling amidst utter darkness.

    Julian of York

  4. Dan says:

    I have heard a theory that dark matter is actually the interference pattern of gravity waves. I have another quite radical theory about what it is, but I do not have the credentials to make the claim.

  5. Annie says:

    Oh, go on, Dan, say it anyway.

  6. Annie says:

    Dr Jamey Bishop,
    I’m going off to find you online and to find your text. It’s quite difficult for one to think outside 3 dimensions, given limited human experience. Do you have any guiding concepts that I can think on to broaden my perception.
    From time to time I do have experiences (annoying clairvoyance) which allow me to see future events and events taking place elsewhere on the planet ‘in time’ and think that maybe there are some answers in these experiences that could lead me to some understandings of the universe. I look at cvoyance as an alternate peek into time, maybe like an old fashioned needle on an LP skipping grooves going ahead or backwards.
    Off to find the text. I believe the answers we seek are right in front of us and I am interested in your text and in getting a clearer, even visual, understanding of 4th d and waves and eddys.